7 February 2006

Uganda: UMU to Educate Rural Health Workers

Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), Nkozi has launched a $60,000(about Shs108.6 m) project to promote Continuing Medical Education (CME) for rural health workers through the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).

The two-year project (2005-2007) was officially launched by the Commissioner for Health in charge of Clinical Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr Jacinto Amandua at the university campus recently.

The project is funded by the Catholic Organisation for Development Aid (CORDAID) through the International Institute for Communications and Development (IICD) and is being implemented by UMU's faculty of Health Sciences in the three pilot hospitals of Nkozi in Mpigi district, Itojo (Ntungamo) and Mutolere in Kisoro district.

CME Project Coordinator, Mr John Mugisha said they are involved in identifying the needs of health workers, training them in the use of ICTs and setting up resource centres at the pilot hospitals where they are to access and utilise information on different health issues.

Mugisha said the move aims at keeping health professionals in rural areas updated on various health issues that are changing every other day.

"It is true that the jobs for which the health professionals were trained keep on changing because of various circumstances like change in disease patterns, drug and drug policies, medical technology, legal requirements, policy priorities. These impact greatly on the job demands and call for continuing training and learning," he said.

Speaking at the same function, Amandua said one of the serious challenges facing rural hospitals is inadequate skills among health providers. "I have worked upcountry for a long time but the biggest challenge in upcountry hospitals is not lack of professionals but what they lack is what they should do with patients," he said.

Amandua said whereas some of the health practioners up country can dress a wound, they can hardly explain steps taken in dressing it.

The Dean Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Everd Maniple said that when health workers get posted in rural hospitals, they hardly get access to ICTs and as a result, they lose track of what is going on in the health sector which affects service delivery.

"When they over stay in rural areas, they lose the culture of reading and instead spend their free time drinking local brew (mwenge bigere) with the locals. Some of them cannot utter a word when they are with fellow health professionals who are exposed due to fear of exposing their ignorance on topical issues," he said.

He said this project is timely because it would address such problems among rural health practioners.

UMU's Vice-Chancellor, Prof Michel Lejeune, IICD's Programme Manager in charge of Capacity Development, Mr Arjande Jager and representatives from pilot hospitals attended the launch.

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