12 February 2013

Tanzania: Special Initiative to Keep Doctors Informed in Offing

AT least 9,000 medical practitioners in the country are set to enjoy communicating and sharing information amongst themselves free of charge, following the launch of Health Network Programme.

A partnership initiative of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Switchboard International and Vodacom Tanzania, the Programme launched in Dar es Salaam, will enable the practitioners, both in the rural and urban areas, to make free calls and send 50 free SMS per month.

Those that will enjoy the service include doctors, assistant medical officers, medical specialists, clinical officers, assistant clinical officers, dental officers, assistant dental officers, dental therapists, and dental specialists in the country.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Seif Rashid, said in order to strengthen health systems and improve patient care, the Programme will support health professionals in their work to seek guidance and advice by connecting them to other participating practitioners in the country.

Dr Rashid added that the programme also aims to improve equitable access to care for wide patient populations by reducing information lag time to and from practitioners, allowing for appropriate and timely diagnosis and treatment. The minister noted that effective and prompt communication among health workers is, therefore, essential at all levels and especially given the shortage of health workers and remoteness of some of the facilities from district and higher level hospitals.

The Ministry of Health is committed to improving the responsiveness and reach of the country's health care system and the programme we are launching on Tuesday is a big milestone towards that goal. This network will strengthen the health system and improve patient care through supporting the workforce in conducting their jobs efficiently.

Practitioners can freely and immediately access critical information and support. Basic interventions like sending best practices and disease outbreak alerts and collecting data in real-time can have profound health impacts. The Head of Vodacom Foundation, Yessaya Mwakifulefule, said that this latest development will not only revolutionize the health sector of Tanzania, but also change the lives of citizens living across Tanzania.

"We are happy to be part of this initiative. This is a move that will go a long way in supporting needy Tanzanians who require immediate attention," said Mwakifulefule. The Health Network Programme is designed to support the Tanzanian health workforce in conducting their jobs and improving patient care nationwide.

It is our hope in the future to expand the programme to other cadres throughout Tanzania. The selected practitioners will register and join by dialling *149*24#. For registration, the practitioners are advised to provide a government cheque number or Medical Council of Tanganyika Registration. Those without the requirements can still register and get verified by their District Medical Officer (DMO).

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