Saving lifesaving devices - Morse Medical repairs medical equipment

By Mary L. Grady

If you had a mammogram or CT scan recently, Island businessman Wayne Morse could probably describe the machine and the particulars of its various features off the top of his head.

Morse is the owner and force behind Morse Medical. The firm installs, maintains and repairs literally thousands of complex biomedical devices ranging from imaging technology to heart monitors to infusion machines. But it is more than fixing, calibrating or tweaking. It is the careful coordination of people, skills and instruments to keep those often lifesaving machines working correctly and safely.

Working out of a small suite of offices in the Globe Building, Morse and his technicians service hospitals big and small around the region. Morse counts Swedish Medical Center and Highline Community Hospital among his clients. The firm is also under contract to look after the lifesaving monitoring devices used by the medical professionals aboard the helicopters and planes operated by AirLift Northwest.

The firm maintains a database of 20,000 devices, parts and other key details, such as which machines have been discontinued or bought by other competitors. It is an important resource. A quick check reveals that the machines and their components are serious investments. A single part in a particular CT scan listed in the database costs $80,000.

Morse, schooled in physiology and biomechanics, has long been involved in the design of medical devices and equipment. After working for other manufacturers and biotechnical firms, including medical device manufacturer Spacelabs in Redmond, he decided to strike out on his own 10 years ago. Because of his dedication and experience with every aspect of bio-engineering, Morse was recently named a fellow in the American College of Clinical Engineering ACCE.

Morse's life work began in college when he learned firsthand the need for well maintained medical devices when his father had a heart attack. Morse, who had contemplated a career in aerospace, changed his major and began working toward a degree in biophysiology.

His current role as a business owner and high-tech entrepreneur is a long way from his first job at the City of Hope Medical Center in Southern California. He worked as a gofer in a cardiovascular research lab with dogs while he was in college. The job there led to designing instrumentation for open heart surgery.

He later went on to conduct his own research with a grant to study neurophysiology and later attended graduate school at the University of Southern California. He then turned his attention toward the clinical side of his field when he went to work at a community hospital in Long Beach, Calif. There with a cardiologist, he designed medical equipment, a catherization lab and set up a cardiac intensive care unit.

He came to the Seattle area in the 1980s when he was hired by Spacelabs. He was hired to improve the perception of reliability in the high tech diagnostic systems made there. His work branched into education materials, videos, reference books and then software to train clinical engineers.

A key part of the job then and now is to insure that clinicians using the machines can verify or test that the equipment is safe and working properly, he said.

``There is nothing perfect in this world, but with healthcare, you want to be close, he said.

The thesis of Morse Medical is with budget cuts in healthcare and less money available for training and travel to seminars, our firm brings the technicians and the training to the clinical setting,'' he said.

Knowing how to work with doctors in a clinical setting is key, he explained.

``We not only have to have trained techs but quality people. My business is based on the reputation of my employees.''

Morse feels the responsibility involved in his work acutely. ``We are saving people lives by supporting this equipment.''

Others feel it too.

Not long ago, Morse lost his liability insurance. His insurance provider will no longer cover any company that manufactures or works on defibrillators or other life support devices. Morse has had to make other arrangements.

The businessman and his wife Nancy, have two children, Michelle and Zachary, and are active in Herzl Ner Tamid and the Boys & Girls Club. Morse contributes one percent of his firms revenues to local charitable causes.

He knows what can happen without an accurate medical diagnosis. Sick for several months before the cause of his illness had finally been pinpointed, he had his gangrenous gall bladder removed. After spending a few not-so-pleasant days as a patient in the hospital, he realized how sensitive he was to the environment there.

``It was noisy,'' he said noting that little things like squeaky wheels on carts bothered him. ``I did not appreciate it as a maintenance guy. It was hard to deal with.''

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