Using 3D Printers to Tackle Gaza's Medical Shortages

Mersiha Gadzo | Aljazeera | September 5, 2017

Palestinian team is using 3D printers to build stethoscopes and tourniquets to help struggling hospitals.

The stethoscope, a staple device in modern medicine, is a luxury item in Gaza. At Gaza's largest hospital, al-Shifa, there are only one or two stethoscopes in each department; doctors left without one resort to pressing their ears against patients' chests to diagnose an illness. "That would be the best-case scenario," Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani told Al Jazeera. "If someone's full of blood, most doctors aren't going to put their ears to the chest. So, doctors are making decisions without that piece of information."

Loubani and three of his peers are working to change that. As part of the Glia team, their goal is to mass-manufacture low-cost, high-quality medical devices for Gaza using 3D printing. They recently received their first batch of stethoscopes. In their office in the centre of Gaza City, a small square piece of the 3D printer moves back and forth across the plate, refining two long pieces. In about two hours, it will finish printing all the pieces to form the tested and approved 3D printed stethoscope - the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip.

"It looks like a toy, but the quality is just as good as the leading brands," Mohammed Abu Matar, 31, told Al Jazeera, as he held up one of their finished stethoscopes. The item costs only $3, compared with the industry-leading Littmann Cardiology III, which sells for around $200. It is a huge feat for the Gaza Strip, which suffers from a shortage of much-needed medical equipment. Under the decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, a wide range of medical items are banned from entering Gaza without special coordination due to Israel's "dual-use" concerns - namely, that the items could also be used for military purposes...