A Palestinian-Canadian doctor has created a low-cost stethoscope using a 3D printer, the first in a series of inventions he hopes will help alleviate medical supply shortages caused by the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Tarek Loubani says his stethoscope can be made for just US$2.50 – a fraction of the cost of leading brands. Hospitals in Gaza have been struggling with shortages since Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took over in 2007.
Dr. Loubani explains where he got the idea from: “I ran into a little toy that my brother’s son had been playing with and realised that this toy stethoscope, which must have cost one dollar to make, was not terrible. So, that’s where the idea came from, the idea came to have this plastic stethoscope, which is similar to the toy stethoscopes in that it’s plastic, but is actually engineered so that it is as good as the market leader.”
Dr. Loubani, who has been working in Gaza’s Shifa hospital for years, heads the Glia Project which aims to supply the blockaded Strip with low-cost medical devices. His stethoscope is produced on a small 3D printer in a makeshift lab.
He says that faced with a meager supply of medical tools, he and fellow doctors were forced to press their ears against patients’ chests to listen to their heartbeat.
“Whatever we can fix I want to fix and this shortage of devices, especially stethoscopes and a few of the other basic devices, is something that I think we can translate from a big problem to a big win for us in Gaza so that we are helping the Gaza patients,” says Dr. Loubani.
Future plans include more complicated 3-D printed medical devices, such as a pulse oximeter and an electrocardiogram. Their assembly, he says, shouldn’t be beyond the ability of anybody with a high school-level of electronics.