Hugh Gombakomba Herald Reporter
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has said the US$300 000 tele-medicine deal it signed with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is now at its execution stage.
The contract, which was signed in November last year, was an initiative meant to benefit all rural health facilities around the country and was expected to begin in January this year.
Tele-medicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical health care using two-way communication between the patient and a health care provider.
Last December, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services permanent secretary Engineer Sam Kundishora said the project was set up to foster improvement in the delivery and provision of cost-effective and accessible health services, particularly to people in rural areas.
POTRAZ acting director-general Mr Baxton Sirewu told The Herald that an adjusted programme of works had been developed and agreed upon, with the pilot project set to be delivered by December 2016.
“A consultant was engaged through the ITU with a mandate to design the tele-medicine platform including drawing up the equipment and network requirements, protocols and procedures. The consultant was in the country over the period February 23-March 4, 2016 during which time he conducted an infrastructure audit involving all beneficiary health institutions,” he said.
Mr Sirewu said they were now awaiting the audit report, so as to implement the next steps, in accordance with the project plan.
“Major works after receipt of the audit report include network design, procurement and deployment; procurement of relevant equipment for the beneficiary institutions and training of staff,” said Mr Sirewu.
Concurrently, a tele-medicine training seminar is scheduled for the period April 11- 15 in Nyanga.
Mr Sirewu said the project would primarily improve the process of consultation, diagnosis, treatment, distant learning in medical updates and prevention of epidemics.
The tele-medicine services are going to be making use of the broadband network at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals which is going to be extended to provincial and district health services, in the process helping eliminate distance barriers and improving access to outlying communities.
“The initiative goes beyond convenience; it’s about saving lives in communities that do not have access to medical doctors and expert health care. The patient would be in a position to receive expert medical care from the local clinics; while for the doctor, diagnosis and patient management will be extended beyond the limits of the consultation rooms,” Mr Sirewu said.
The following health institutions are set to benefit under the project: Parirenyatwa Referral Hospital, Mutare Provincial Hospital, Nyanga District Hospital, Mutambara Mission District Hospital, Mt Melleray Mission Hospital and Avilla Mission. Nyatate, Fombe, Tombo, Nyafaro, Chimanimani, Ngorima, Muchadziya, Chakohwa and Nyanyadzi rural health clinics are also set to benefit.