Deep in the basement of the 375th Medical Group, behind a series of doors and out of the way of most hospital traffic, is a long, narrow room that looks like an old high-school “shop class.”
Bits and pieces of broken defibrillators and other medical gear sit on workbenches, waiting to be fixed by 11 technicians who call the workshop home.
The technicians who work here belong to the 375th Medical Support Squadron’s Medical Equipment Repair Center—commonly referred to as MERC. It is one of only a few centers scattered throughout the Air Force qualified to repair and maintain life-saving medical equipment.
“We do annual and frequent maintenance whether it’s inspecting (the equipment) for damage, doing calibrations or doing preventative maintenance,” said Senior Airman Brian Howard, a biomedical equipment technician.
The center has specific criteria for all equipment it sees, which includes vital patient movement items such as ventilators, infant incubators, life support units, defibrillators and patient monitors. The MERC team makes sure the equipment fits that criteria before it is put to use.
Along with the equipment in the clinic, the MERC also maintains automatic external defibrillators across the base, making sure they function properly in an emergency situation.
Without the MERC being at Scott, the base would have to rely on contractors or other bases to maintain the equipment, which could lengthen the process by weeks, said Howard.
“We expedite the process because we are right here on base ready for everyone.”
As a MERC, the center oversees a 13-state region throughout the Midwest, assisting other bases in maintaining their equipment.
“We go on three separate annual TDYs helping out smaller active duty and reserve bases that don’t have the training, the manning, or the equipment necessary to do that maintenance,” said Howard. “We coordinate with those custodians at those bases and shops to train them up or mainly provide maintenance on their X-ray units because they don’t have the capability to do it themselves.”
Airman 1st Class Jason McGhee, biomedical equipment technician, said that the MERC is the “go-to” for any of the additional questions other bases may have, and he enjoys being able to travel out to them when he can.
“It’s cool working day-to-day and getting the information you need hands-on in the clinic,” said McGhee, “But actually getting to go to new places, meeting new people and doing more complex equipment is definitely a huge step up.”
Howard said that the sense of accomplishment he feels when fixing something and knowing the importance of being a biomedical equipment technician is what makes the job enjoyable.
“My old supervisor put it to me this way when I was a brand new Airman coming in ... he didn’t realize the importance of the job until the infant incubator that he had just calibrated was being used on his son. The work we do could potentially harm someone if we don’t do it right, so we make sure we do!”