November 10, 2009





Big Medicine is published by Team EMS Inc.


Managing Editor

Hal Newman  


Contact: ideas@tems.ca




Avi Bachar

Steve Crimando

Angela Devlen

David Newman

Hal Newman

Chris Piper

Norm Rooker

Ghassan Michel Rubeiz

Jim Rush

Blair Schwartz

Geary Sikich

Ric Skinner

W. David Stephenson

David Suzuki

Sacha Vais

Beryl Wajsman


Contributor Emeritus

Erik Ronningen




Special Feature

H5N1 Briefings

News & Terrorism






Middle East





Disaster Mgmt





Hazard Research



Stop Violence Against Women & Girls






The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of their organizations. In particular, the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Big Medicine, nor any member of Team EMS Inc.

















SayNow "Broadcast audio messages to your fans and friends by recording from your phone or sending an mp3 from the web. Fans and friends can listen to messages, reply, forward, and participate in polls from any U.S. phone or their computer. Everyone's number is kept totally private and it's free." Pretty neat technology and something I'd like to see laterally transferred to the world of Big Medicine - what about encouraging residents to subscribe for the local EMS Shout Out?



Thinkature Thinkature brings the richness of in-person, visual communication to the web by placing instant messaging inside a visual workspace. Use it as a collaboration environment, a meeting room, a personal web-based whiteboard, or something entirely new. With Thinkature, you can create a collaborative workspace and invite coworkers, friends, and colleagues to join you in just seconds. Once inside your workspace, you can communicate by chatting, drawing, creating cards, and adding content from around the Internet. It's all synchronous, too - no need to hit reload or get an editing lock. http://thinkature.com/


ActiveCollab--activeCollab is an easy to use, web based, open source collaboration and project management tool. Set up an environment where you, your team and your clients can collaborate on active projects using a set of simple, functional tools. Free.



Asociación Infocentros [Jan 29 06 El Salvador]--Asociación Infocentros was founded to help El Salvador become part of the growing Information Society and avoid remaining on the less privileged side of the Digital Divide. We are a non-profit organization, working with support from the Salvadoran Government to provide equal opportunity access to information and knowledge. We are fulfilling this important mission with our Network of Infocentros, located all over the country. Currently in El Salvador, there are 33 Infocentros providing access to the Internet, computers, and training. Every day at the Infocentros, hundreds of Salvadorans find new way to take advantage of the opportunities that technology brings within their reach - training to get better jobs, accessing information, and communicating with the world. www.infocentros.org.sv


BlogTalkRadio--Your BlogShow lets you host your own talk show online. Receive live callers, interview guests, and broadcast to an unlimited number of listeners. All you need is any type of phone, an internet connection, and something to say. All your listeners need is streaming audio or any type of phone should they choose to call in. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/


Digital Links [Jan 29 06 London UK]--Digital Links is a not-for-profit organisation that provides low cost refurbished computers to governments, schools, NGOs, community groups, small enterprises in developing countries and to international organisations working in developing countries. We typically set up distribution partners who can receive bulk shipments of computers and distribute them onwards to smaller users. We can also provide training in hardware configuration and maintenance to our partners. Digital Links actively seeks collaboration with other organisations to increase access to ICT to improve people's lives. Most of our computers are Pentium I and II and are provided for just £40 each for a complete working unit plus shipping costs. We endeavour to meet the specific hardware needs of our clients and to ensure that failure rates are kept to an absolute minimum. www.digital-links.org


Earthroamer--Now this is one very cool RV - not even sure you could call it an RV. If ever we win the lottery, my neighbours will be looking at a brand-new EarthRoamer sitting in our driveway. But not for long, because this is the kind of vehicle that really does answer the call of the wild. Travel year-round on remote trails and camp in secluded locations for extended periods of timeThis four-wheel drive, all-weather expedition camper is specially designed for stand-alone operation. http://www.earthroamer.com/


Fundacion Chasquinet [Jan 29 06 Quito Ecuador]--The main aim of Fundacion Chasquinet in Quito, Ecuador is to promote the strategic use and development of the Internet in the social sectors of developing countries through research, education, and enhanced communication. Typical projects Chasquinet has undertaken or is undertaking are the creation and coordination of the Somos@Telecentros, the regional network of telecentres in Latin America and the Caribbean, BarrioNet, and Street Children projects, to name only a few. Chasquinet is fully committed to promoting the non-commercial use of the Internet and is very much involved in policy discussions regarding information technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean and worldwide. It is Chasquinet’s goal to further develop, in cooperation with other relevant organizations and individuals, the policies, strategies, and tools that are very much needed in order to use the available information technologies as an effective means for just development. www.chasquinet.org


Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) [Jan 29 06 Kuala Lampur Malaysia]--The Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) is a worldwide network committed to harnessing the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for sustainable and equitable development. GKP’s vision is a world of equal opportunities where all people can access and use knowledge and information to improve their lives. The network enables the sharing of information, experiences and resources to help reduce poverty and empower people. Within the GKP framework, governments, civil society groups, donor agencies, private sector companies and inter-governmental organisations come together as equals to apply ICTs for development (ICT4D). Founded in 1997, GKP now comprises 93 members from 40 countries covering all continents. It is governed by an elected Executive Committee and serviced by a Secretariat based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. www.globalknowledge.org/


Intermediate Technology Development Group [Jan 12 06 Bourton on Dunsmore UK]-- www.itdg.org  Is small still beautiful? We think it is. In an increasingly divided and fragile world, ITDG – the Intermediate Technology Development Group –Practical Action aims to demonstrate and advocate the sustainable use of technology to reduce poverty in developing countries. It was founded in 1966 by the radical economist Dr EF Schumacher to prove that his philosophy of ‘Small is Beautiful’ could bring real and sustainable improvements to people’s lives. With our commitment to poverty reduction, environmental conservation and technology choice we think ITDGPractical Action is uniquely placed to contribute to a world free of poverty. ITDGPractical Action has a unique approach to development – we don't start with technology, but with people. The tools may be simple or sophisticated – but to provide long-term, appropriate and practical answers, they must be firmly in the hands of local people: people who shape technology and control it for themselves.


International Charter Space and Major Disasters [Jan 15 06 London UK]-- www.disasterscharter.org/   The International Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Each member agency has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property. The International Charter was declared formally operational on November 1, 2000. An Authorized User can now call a single number to request the mobilization of the space and associated ground resources (RADARSAT, ERS, ENVISAT, SPOT, IRS, SAC-C, NOAA satellites, LANDSAT, and others) of the member agencies to obtain data and information on a disaster occurrence.


Loki--Location-Based Search and 'Virtual GPS'--Loki pinpoints your exact physical location and then uses that location to make the web revolve around you, wherever you are. With Loki you'll always know where you are, make sure that others know where you are too, never get lost and always be able to find stuff nearby. http://loki.com/


MIT's Media Lab Asia [Jan 29 06 Mumbai India]--Media Lab Asia is the world's largest academic research program dedicated to bringing the benefits of new technologies to everyone, with a special focus on meeting the grand challenges in learning, health, and economic development. With core participation from MIT's renowned Media Laboratory, seed funding from the Government of India, and participation of more than a dozen leading technical and business universities, Media Lab Asia will focus on technologies that respond to the needs of the millions who require them most in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The role of Media Lab Asia is to facilitate the invention, refinement, and dissemination of innovations that benefit the greatest number possible of the world's neediest people. Media Lab Asia will work with industry, NGOs, and governments, to bring these innovations to every village in Asia. The key to success for the Lab will be combining the creativity of entrepreneurs with the technical know-how of universities. As we work to cultivate sustainable and culturally appropriate solutions, particular challenges will include the need to operate in many different languages, as well as the need to support local cultures and traditions. www.medialabasia.org


National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology [Jan 15 06 Intermediate Technology Tokyo Japan]-- www.aist.go.jp/index_en.html  On April 1, 2001, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (the new AIST) began operations. AIST is a newly formed research organization that is the result of an amalgamation of the 15 research institutes previously under the former Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (the former AIST) in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Table 1 below) and the Weights and Measures Training Institute. The new AIST is Japan's largest public research organization with many research facilities and around 3,200 employees in all. Advanced Research by exploring broad spectra of research fields and integrating multidisciplinary subjects to promote innovation in versatile fields that strengthen the competitiveness of Japanese industries in the world market and create new industries. Interdisciplinary and Cross-Disciplinary Research that enables planning long-range governmental policies by exploiting the current and future needs of society. Basic Research that maintains and strengthens competitiveness of national science and technology by developing and maintaining high standards of scientific and engineering research under the sole responsibility of AIST.


OpenStreetMap--OpenStreetMap is a project aimed squarely at creating and providing free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive or unexpected ways. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/Main_Page


ProjectSpaces--ProjectSpaces is a simple, powerful web-based extranet tool that enables effective online collaboration across organizational and geographic boundaries. The interface is simple and intuitive to help users find what they're looking for quickly and easily. Thirty-day free trial. http://www.forumone.com/section/services/projectspaces/


QuikMaps--Draw pictures and label things on a google map using simple clicks and drags. Easily move the map to anywhere in the world. Quikmaps is perfect for: drawing a map to your house, sketching out a cycling or hiking route, or telling everyone where you saw the grizzly bear. http://quikmaps.com/


SATELLIFE [Jan 29 06 Watertown MA USA]--For the past 13 years, SATELLIFE has been engaged in using ICT for health in countries in Africa. Pioneering the use of appropriate technologies on the continent, SATELLIFE has connected health professionals with each other and to life-saving medical and public health information. SATELLIFE created HealthNet, a global electronic information and communication network that provides knowledge resources on today’s most urgent health issues, affordable email, computer literacy training, and opportunities for dialogue and information exchange among health professionals in the world’s poorest nations. As a leader in promoting better health care through the innovative use of information technologies, SATELLIFE has been testing the efficacy of the handheld computer or personal digital assistant (PDA) as a tool for data collection and information dissemination in Africa. SATELLIFE's efforts were recently recognized as a winner of the 2002 Stockholm Challenge for Pioneering IT Projects; Finalist, 2002 Digital Partners Social Enterprise Laboratory Award; and Finalist, 2002 ICT Stories Competition sponsored by infoDev and IICD. www.healthnet.org/


The Stockholm Challenge [Jan 29 06 Stockholm Sweden]--The Stockholm Challenge is an international awards programme for pioneering projects using IT in innovative ways in areas such as environment, education, health, culture, e-government and e-business. It is more than a competition, it’s a platform for exchange of ideas and experiences in a democratic and open way and a way to showcase best practises within the field of IT. It is a way of building networks between entrepreneurs who will benefit from contacts across borders, cultures and economies. The Stockholm Challenge focuses on the positive effects of today's information society, and the benefit information and communication technology can bring people and society. The technology itself is not the issue. www.challenge.stockholm.se


VGMap-Vector Overlays for Google Maps--VGMap is a new library created by Eyebeam R&D that allows designers, developers, and mapping geeks to overlay data on top of Google Maps in a richer way than is possible using their standard system. It is called VGMap because it adds vector-drawing capability to the already-awesome GMap API. The Google Maps API enables point and line data on their maps in the form of markers, and polylines. This has yielded a lot of great applications, such as Housing Maps and the GMaps Pedometer (see more at Google Maps Mania). What it does not allow for is vector graphics, which precludes the use of Google Maps for more sophisticated GIS applications. Flash provides for vector drawing, as well as a well-worn interactive and animation functionality. http://vgmap.eyebeamresearch.org/


Youth Creating Digital Opportunities (YCDO) [Jan 29 Toronto ON Canada]--Youth Creating Digital Opportunities (YCDO) was created in 2002 as a strategic framework for supporting youth involvement in ICT for development (ICT4D) policy and practice. The YCDO vision and mission are given life through the individual and joint activities of the 1700+ members of the YCDO Community and supported by the members of the Global Knowledge Partnership youth taskforce. ycdo.takingitglobal.org/index.html


Youth for Technology [Jan 29 06 Owerri, Nigeria]--Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) is an international non-profit organization registered in Nigeria and the United States. The mission of Youth for Technology Foundation is to bridge the digital canyon in Nigeria through the establishment of digital villages in rural communities. The focus is on training and providing technology resources to youth (in particular girl children), rural women and their communities in an effort to reduce poverty, improve standards of living and empower people. The mission is based on the belief than Nigerian youth are a valuable resource for the economic development of Nigeria and the eradication of poverty. A realization of YTF’s vision is the Owerri Digital Village, a community technology and learning center in Eastern Nigeria. Youth for Technology Foundation is a member of Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), Word Bank Foundations Group, Community Technology Network (CTCNet) and One World Africa. YTF’s efforts were recognized in 2002 as a finalist in the Digital Partners Social Enterprise Laboratory and World Bank/InfoDev Core Grant program. www.youthfortechnology.org















Because hospital beds need tune-ups, too [Apr 10 Calgary AB] by Chris Simnett--The buzz of a power drill briefly drowns out the soft whir of a hydraulic lift.

When the lift reaches its highest point and locks in place with a loud click, the scratching of a wrench loosening a nut can be discerned before the drill kicks in and drowns out that faint sound.

In the background a radio, sitting on a desk scattered with a few shiny metal parts and a couple of oily rags, plays rock ‘n’ roll from a local station. Next to the desk is a bank of shiny red Snap-on tool chests.

There is no calendar featuring women draped over muscle cars, however.

That and the squeaky clean concrete floor are the main indicators that this isn’t an automotive garage. It’s a bed shop.

There are no cars on top of the two hydraulic lifts at the Calgary Health Region’s bed shop, just hospital beds.

Underneath those beds is Doug Scott, one of three bed shop technicians employed by the Region.

“I never planned on fixing beds for a living,” says Scott with a smile. “People laugh at me when I tell them.

“But it’s a valuable service. It’s huge. The way it is now, with us being so busy, if the bed is down too long, people are all over you. With our dedicated staff, our turnaround is two or three days unless it’s a special repair and we have to order parts.”

The shop stocks 90 per cent of the parts needed. At least half of the 2,000- square-foot shop is taken up with shelves and cabinets of shiny wheelchair parts, computer boards for the beds and myriad wires and hoses.

Scott and his colleagues, Alan Law and Jerry Reyes, are responsible for keeping the 2,100 beds in the four Calgary hospitals in tip-top shape.

The trio also fix the 1,000 stretchers and more than 1,000 wheelchairs in the Region.

It’s a busy job, with the three technicians working on about 150 beds, stretchers and wheelchairs every month.

Scott, Law and Reyes are skilled technicians. They have to be as some of the Region’s beds are more complicated than the latest SUV and there’s more models of wheelchairs than products made by Ford, GM and Chrysler combined.

“There are so many different styles of wheelchairs,” says Scott. “With beds we have five or six, but with wheelchairs there are 30.”

One of the types of bed, the Total Care model, costs $18,000 and is powered by a computer board. The Region has 200 Total Care beds. The Total Care Support model costs upward of $50,000 and has no less than six computer boards on board. Scott says there are eight of those in the Region, mostly used for the sickest patients in intensive care.

The beds, wheelchairs and stretchers are picked up nightly from the Region’s four Calgary hospitals. The shop doesn’t take care of rural equipment yet other than to take deliveries for new products, assemble them and then ship them off to the rural sites.

While they do a lot of assembling of new stuff, the most common task Scott, Law and Reyes perform is fixing existing equipment.

“Side rails get bashed around because they’re being raised and lowered so much,” says Scott. “It’s mostly just wear and tear. These beds are being used 24/7. If you didn’t have a tuneup on your car every so often, it wouldn’t work so well. Some of these beds go two three years between seeing any service. You try and do that to your car.”

Scott would like to see every bed, wheelchair and stretcher in the shop at least once a year for preventative maintenance but he knows that’s not always possible.

“We try and get the beds in here once a year for regular maintenance,” says Scott. “It’s tough, though, with that much product. You have to encourage the staff, the nursing managers, but it’s not easy for them. They have to get the patient out of a bed and find a spare bed for them. Right now we’re short of beds so where do you find spare beds from? Our beds are being used 24/7 and they get banged up pretty good.”

Law came to the bed shop from his native Hong Kong where he was an aircraft mechanic, working on 747s at an airport. Reyes has been with the Region for more than two decades in various capacities, while Scott started off working in the carpentry shop at the Foothills Medical Centre.

Scott was transferred to the FMC’s bed maintenance shop in 1995, a time when every hospital had its own small bed repair area.

“All the beds used to be fixed at the sites,” Scott says. “We had two staff at each site to fix beds.”

The Region opened its centralized bed shop in 2000 in Bowness. It’s now located at a new site.

“I started down there (Bowness) by myself and then they hired Jerry about six months later and it took time for people to get used to the idea of trucking their beds out to get fixed,” says Scott, who has been to California and Indiana to learn about all the Region beds from their manufacturers.

“It caught on and sites realized that it frees up an extra two staff at each site to do something else. Also, the broken beds are not sitting in the hallways waiting for someone to look at them now. Every night, seven days a week, they’re trucked over to here.”

The new shop, which opened in July, is big, bright and clean with state-of-the- art equipment, such as the two lifts and plenty of space to store spare parts.

“We never had any of this stuff at the sites,” says Scott, surveying the equipment. “When I first started, we used to lie on our backs to get underneath the beds.”

Now, Scott has an air hose to blow debris and grit out of small openings inside the beds, a vacuum to eliminate harmful fumes while welding and even a chain hoist.

“It makes a big difference,” he says.

“You talk to some of the suppliers, they’ve never heard about a place called a bed shop. Edmonton (Capital Health Region) phoned us and asked us how we were doing it.

“We had a lady from California up here from (bed manufacturer) Hill-Ron and she said it’s unbelievable, she’d never seen anything like this. Usually the beds are fixed in the corner of the hospital or in the basement; nobody wants to see you.

“The Region has done a good thing here.”




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