A solution that improves, strengthens and capacitates primary healthcare while leveraging existing infrastructure
The approach of Health Gateway Africa Trust is person centered and focuses on making health systems work for health seekers by reducing inequalities and promoting access to services that are essential for healthy living and well being. We care because we understand from first-hand experiences that communities in Africa face issues when it comes to accessing services and we continue to strive to find sustainable solutions for capacity building, empowerment and development of the community.
Remoteness, shortages of diagnostics, skilled workers; broken supply chains, availability of care amid a pandemic. What do these five things have in common? A population whose health needs are underserved with a quickly deployable solution needed. A solution that improves, strengthens, and capacitates primary healthcare while leveraging existing infrastructure.
Health Gateway Africa Trust (HGAT) is a Harare, Zimbabwe based non-profit organisation that has mainly been involved in WASH programmes and other activities that capacitated rural clinics and hospitals. It is during these missions that we were exposed to the disparities in healthcare amplified by the Covid 19 pandemic. Shortage of medical personnel became noticeable as doctors and nurses fell sick and few were left to care and contain the disease. In some areas, facilities were attending to emergencies only with patients being turned away with excuses ranging from a highly infectious environment to doctors simply being unavailable. Patients with Non-Communicable diseases and other conditions simply became invisible.
Here is the thing, some of these patients would have travelled tens of kilometres just to get to the hospital. In a typical district, the region has one hospital supported by anything between 20 to 40 satellite clinics. It is these clinics that are easily accessible to the villagers and a typical clinic is manned by 2 to 5 nurses. Doctors are available at the main hospital and may number between 1 to 5 on average. In a bid to alleviate the situation, our team had discussions and collaborated with various healthcare workers to find a solution to the stated problems. By ensuring that patients get as much help as possible at their local clinic, at affordable prices, without travelling to the hospital or even to the city, most of the chronic care and non-emergent cases would have been taken care of. The most important thing was to capacitate the local clinics to care for the extra load including the Covid 19 positives undergoing community monitoring and rehabilitation.
By leveraging existing clinics, mobile internet network and digital mobile point of care testing kits, the collaboration capacitates nurse stations to do enhanced examinations on any visiting patient. Summarised patient information would be uploaded online and reviewed by a doctor hundreds of kilometres away who comes up with a treatment plan. A Virtual Hospital was born.
What is even better is this nurse station can be stationed anywhere where there is high population volume with virtual doctors and specialists offering reviews and support from anywhere in the world. This makes it possible to deploy mass screening and proactive health programs whereby community members at risk of non-communicable diseases are encouraged to have screenings for targeted diseases and programs of public health importance to do the necessary interventions if needed.
At this stage, attempts to build the Virtual Hospital Platform are being made with a view to help communities in Africa and beyond as soon as possible. The scope of this project means our organization needs to collaborate and partner with interested parties for full software development, validation, and implementation. Our human resources currently include a team of software development volunteers from around the world who have shown keen interest in the project. The project has great potential for impact and is expected to be ready for showcasing once capacity for our team is built and scaled up to suit the project scope and demands.
With such an initiative, we can foresee a collaboration that pulls skills and resources together to see the virtual hospital come to life. Yet more partnerships will be forged in the future that will see community members directly benefiting from the Virtual Hospital. Health Gateway Africa Trust envisions a world free from poverty with access to good health and well-being and is currently involved in restoring personal dignity for all, creating equal opportunities for women and girls; and increasing access to health, with health education and improved subsistence for disadvantaged communities.