Zambian Minister for Health speaks of the ‘immeasurable gift’ that EQUALS Initiative donations and support signify to Zambia

This post was originally published on the RCPI website.

Members of the EQUALS Initiative have just returned from a successful visit to Zambia.

The trip took place from Monday 18 – Friday 22 June in Lusaka and Ndola, Zambia.

The delegation met with key Zambian partner, Dr Victor Mukonka, Director of the Zambian National Public Health Institute and included:

  • Prof Frank Murray, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Founding Member and Co-Chair of the EQUALS Initiative
  • Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, Director of Public Health, HSE-West and Founding Member of EQUALS Initiative
  • Dr Ann O’Shaughnessy, Head of Professional Affairs, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
  • Ms Taimse Tracey, Team Lead, International Affairs, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and Member of EQUALS Initiative
  • Mr Karl Bergin, Head of Clinical Engineering at the Coombe Hospital, Dublin and Member of EQUALS Initiative
  • Mr Eoghan Hayden, Head of Clinical Engineering at Holles St. Hospital, Dublin and Member of EQUALS Initiative

The schedule for the visit included meetings with the Ministry for Health, Irish Embassy, Zambian College of Medicine and Surgery, Zambian National Public Health Institute, and two teaching hospitals.

The purpose of the trip was to strengthen the existing partnerships regarding the donation and maintenance of medical equipment and the provision of support in the development of postgraduate medical training programmes in Zambia.

The trip was funded partially by an ESTHER Ireland Small Grant awarded to the EQUALS Initiative and partially by RCPI.

MEETING AT THE MINISTRY FOR HEALTH

At the Ministry for Health meeting on Monday 18th June Hon Dr Chitalu Chilufya, Minister for Health in Zambia updated the delegates on the tenfold increase in number of medical school graduates in Zambia and the need for postgraduate training opportunities for them. Prof Murray confirmed the support of RCPI and the EQUALS Initiative in the development of postgraduate medical training programmes in Zambia.

Dr Chilufya spoke about the ‘immeasurable gift’ that the donation of the Irish medical equipment signified to Zambia. He recognized the support of Irish Aid in Zambia and the difference that this has made in the development of a number of key areas, including health, education, clean water and sanitation.

He noted that the development of healthcare is a key pillar of the Zambian transformational agenda and that this will be achieved through the revolutionizing training of health professionals.

It is impressive to see the impact of the EQUALs initiative on the ground in Zambia, as a result of HSE/RCPI collaboration and commitment. On the medical training front, huge progress has been made, with the establishment of Zambian College of Medicine and Surgery as an umbrella training body, the development of an Office for Training Doctors, and the commencement of training programmes with more than 120 trainees enrolled on rotations.

– Professor Frank Murray, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Founding Member and Co-Chair of the EQUALS Initiative

OFFICIAL HANDOVER OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT

On Tuesday 19th June the EQUALS delegation attended the official handover of two 40ft containers of donated medical equipment in Lusaka. Ambassador Seamus O’Grady, Irish Ambassador to Zambia, completed the handover to the Zambian Minister for Health, Hon Dr Chilufya, who spoke about the ‘immeasurable gift’ that the donation of the Irish medical equipment signified to Zambia.

He recognised the support of Irish Aid in Zambia and the difference that this has made in the development of a number of key areas, including health, education, clean water and sanitation. He noted that the development of healthcare is a key pillar of the Zambian transformational agenda and that this will be achieved through revolutionising training of health professionals.

The success of the latest EQUALS Initiative visit to Zambia would not have been possible without the enormous contribution of the Biomedical & Clinical Engineering community working within the Irish Health Service. To see reusable medical devices donated from Ireland equipping a rural health care facility in Zambia exemplifies how effective that contribution can be.

– Eoghan Hayden, Head of Clinical Engineering at Holles St. Hospital

WHAT IS EQUALS?

The EQUALS Initiative was established in 2013, and is a joint collaboration between RCPI and the HSE. EQUALS aims to support the development of healthcare in low-middle income countries by donating high-quality, reusable medical equipment, and training clinical staff to use that equipment safely and effectively, in hospitals and clinical settings.

The lack of functioning medical equipment is a barrier to delivery of high quality and effective health care in less developed countries. It has been estimated that 50-80% of medical equipment is out of service. An additional problem is the shortage of biomedical engineers who are trained in equipment maintenance. Furthermore, to use equipment effectively and deliver high quality health care, these countries need to develop post-graduate training programmes to equip doctors with specialist medical skills.

The EQUALS Initiative was established to respond to this challenge. It is based on developing strong links with hospitals and providing support according to needs they identify for equipment and training. Building on pre-existing relationships, Zambia has become the primary country of focus for initial engagement in this regard. Over the course of the last four years, the collaboration has matured from a primarily equipment-focused support effort to a more training-centric model of support.

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