Clinical Engineering in South Africa began as a generic engineering field in hospitals as far back as 1982. At the time, pioneering work was being done by technicians working on much less complicated equipment.
It was clear that technology would improve the functionality of the equipment used in hospitals in the future, and that better equipped technicians would be needed. So, plans were discussed to train up professionals who would enter this field.
The very first discussions took place at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town in 1983. The South African Association of Clinical Engineering (SAACE) was born and a congress was held every 2nd year until 1998. This led to the first congress in Cape Town in 1984 where a blue print was laid for the development of career specifications, a diploma course in clinical engineering and recognition of this specific field by the Department of Health.
Between 1984 and 1990 numerous discussions were held with the Department of Health to officially recognise Clinical Engineering as a separate field. The field of clinical engineering was recognised by the Department of Health in 2002, but under the category ‘Industrial Technicians’.
As healthcare delivery continues to change in South Africa, the department implemented compulsory registration for these practitioners through changes in the Health Act and Human Resources regulations. These regulations were expected to be amended to accommodate the clinical engineering practitioner in the healthcare industry by the end of 2013 as part of the new National Health Insurance Plan.
At the same time, universities and technikons were approached about the development of courses for these practitioners. The first qualification for clinical engineering practitioners was developed at Technikon Pretoria. The 3-year clinical engineering diploma began in 1989, and 4 years later a B.Tech qualification was also offered. The experiential learning phase was developed together with hospitals and the medical industry as a full in-house training program, which is certified by ECSA today.
At the beginning of 2005 the University of South Africa (UNISA) began to offer a similar program. Both the UNISA and Technikon Pretoria courses were developed by Johan van Roon.
In 1995, SAACE and ECSA began developing unit standards for clinical engineering. The process took many years but since 2011 professionals can register in the field as a Pr. Tech, Pr. Techni and MEM (medical equipment manager).
In 1998 the name of the association was changed to the Clinical Engineering Association of South Africa (CEASA). Establishing itself as the national association of clinical engineers, the association consists of members practising clinical engineering in hospitals and companies that serve the South African healthcare industry.