POTRAZ ,ITU Kickstarts National Telemedicine Training.

From Nyanga

25 Zimbabwean health practitioners and ICT  engineers are  gathered here  at MontClair in Inyanga  courtesy of POTRAZ and ITU  for a week long training  in a bid to spearhead the telemedicine and e-health  project  which was given a sponsorship of a whopping $400 000 late last year.

The national project which seeks to roll out  e-medicine  and ehealth in Zimbabwe to all the provinces is set to benefit mostly Zimbabweans in remote areas who  will soon be getting live consultation, tests and treatment remotely by regional doctors without them necessarily travelling to see the specialists.

Potraz Acting DG Baxton Sirewu and ITU`s Development Bureau (BDT) Mr. Brahima Sanou sign the $400k telemedicine deal

The project which  is now at a pilot stage  and currently connected to   two hospitals ,Tombo  and Nyatate which are  45KM and 30KM away from the main Nyanga District  hospital respectively  are  already connected and in full  functionality.  

 By Delight Mawere

This project is set to connect 6 remote  clinics in Nyanga  and 6 clinics in Chimamani  including  Fombe clinic  which is 150KM away from Nyanga  District Hospital .These clinics will be connected to  Parirenyatwa  group of hospitals  and Mutare hospital where more doctors  and specialists are readily available.

The program falls inside the pilot testing  and training stage which will then  spearhead the connection of other remote clinics nationwide.

The advent of  the  telemedicine project was set to solve several problems  in the health sector. These include  the fact that  doctors are  a scarcity  in remote clinics for example in Nyanga  there is a population of 131 000  people with only 6 doctors responsible  for their clinics and hospitals.

Another driving   challenge included the poor road transport and distance factors  which caused most  patients  in rural and  remote areas to get poor  and late medical attention .

The process of telemedicine incorporates  processes of :

Telecardiology which  is a modern medical practice, which uses the power of telecommunications to achieve remote diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. This includes coronary heart disease, chronic and acute, as well as arrhythmias, congestive cardiac failure and sudden cardiac arrest.In this situation, doctors and other healthcare providers use electrocardiographic data, which is transmitted remotely, in real time, for interpretation by a specialist.

Tele-Ultrasound which  is the use of remote, real-time imaging by connecting a remote technician to a radiologist. The Telemedicine Directory index of TeleUltrasound specialists provides easy access to the worldwide network of Teleultrasound services.

Doctors and Engineers attending the Telemedicine conference in Nyanga

Doctors and Engineers attending the Telemedicine conference in Nyanga

Teleradiology which  is the transmission of radiological patient images, such as x-rays, CTs, and MRIs, from one location to another for the purposes of sharing studies with other radiologists and physicians and  lastly teleconsultation.

However, for the time being Zimbabwe is only practicing teleconsultation whereby the doctor can treat   and diagnosis a  sickness or problem  without  necessarily being present  and it will be on a  network  or video link like SKYPE which is already being prototyped  in Zimbabwe.

Countries like South Africa,Uganda and Nigeria  have already adopted the telemedicine  project with Zimbabwe still lagging behind in the adoption of this concept.

“Many countries in Africa and worldwide  are  adopting  telemedicine and M-health.However, Zimabwe  is considerably still lagging behind  because of several challenges  like infrastructure deficit, lack of education  and digital illiteracy and  therefore there is need for clear cut strategies  to make it easier  for the adoption and implementation of this initiative in  the country,” said Mr Wikus vd Merwe who is the facilitator of the training programme and ITU  consultant from South Africa .

The major district provincial hospitals use  ADSL for internet connection   while VSAT is used in remote clinics and web cameras.

Dr Jokwiro, Nyanga District Hospital Director conducting Telemedine in real time to a patient.

In an interview with the head doctor  at Nyanga District hospital,Mr Admore Jokwiro  who was also a participant at the training ,expressed his fears with several  challenges,

“This is a milestone in the health sector and local   patients are embracing this fully with an average of 3-4 patients  being treated  daily though this. However, factors  affecting the connectivity  of  these hospitals  are poor  speed and connection  especially when it’s overcast and rainy while  ZESA outages are a contributing factor  as there will be need for solar energy,”

He urged  local techies to  jump at this opportunity and be able to  introduce new local applications which they can use for easier communication and not depend on SKYPE  only.



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