The maiden West Africa International Health Summit (WAIHS) which was under the theme: “Collaborating through networking and technology for improved healthcare in Africa” has end in Accra.
Participants at the end of the three days event formed a working group dubbed “Continental Africa Telemedicine Alliance (CATA)” to lobby regulatory groups across the continent to push through the agenda of telemedicine across the African continent.
Speaking in an interview with the media at the end of the inaugural ceremony, the Interim Executive Secretary for the eight members CATA, Madam Karen Hendrickson, explained that the formation of CATA will seek to establish an advocacy group to deal with the various regulatory bodies across Africa in order for the continent to be at par with the rest of the world when it comes to telemedicine practice.
“We will not wait for a longer period before deciding that Africa is ready for telemedicine, we want to be at the forefront”. Mad. Hendrickson hinted.
She stated further that: “The idea behind the alliance is to bring practitioners together to identify challenges, and opportunities, and also engage governmental organisations across the continent to form a working relationship to remove all bottlenecks, and challenges which hamper smooth inter-country operations.
Mad. Hendrickson revealed that there are more patients than doctors across the continent, and most patients who do not have access to doctors are at remote areas; however, most people own mobile phones – which will enable a further reach, especially for specialised disciplines such as dermatology or neurology wherein one would not typically find a specialist in such remote areas.
Telemedicine, essentially, is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance. It has been used to overcome distance barriers in the more advanced countries and improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities.
With the launch of this alliance at the summit, it is expected to improve health delivery in Africa.
For instance, with the aid of telemedicine, a patient does not have to travel long distance to access health care.
According to experts, it also eliminates any chances of transmitting infectious diseases from a patient to the health care professional, saves time, offers time-efficient solutions and reduces costs significantly.
The most important aspect of telemedicine is its ability to cater for the needs of patients from any place at any given time.
Telemedicine is highly beneficial for occupational medicine, and helps to formulate an efficient and reliable healthcare plan.
Setting up Dialysis Centers across Africa
In another development, the Convener of the WAIHS and Ghana’s Deputy Ambassador to China, Dr. Charles Dwamena, has announced that partners for the summit have agreed to set up ten Dialysis Centers across Africa, with Ghana and Ivory Coast expected to have two while the rest is shared among other African countries.
Dr Dwamena, however, appealed to continental governments, health ministers, and policy makers in the health sector to emblazed the use of telemedicine in African.
Ghana’s Deputy Ambassador to China stressed that the importance of telemedicine to the African continent has become crucial especially in the 21st century. He stated emphatically that telemedicine practice in Africa can no longer be deferred. “It is something we cannot delay any longer, because when you look at Africa Internet penetration is less than forty percent.
“Again, you look at a continent which is the future of the world; this same continent has the poorest doctor-patient ratio with some countries having two doctors per hundred thousand patients, whereas we have the opportunity of using telemedicine to address these issues.” Dr Dwamena, added.
The Convener for the West Africa International Health Summit said that the three days summit has been successful.
The three-day summit which ran from February 20 through to 22nd provided an opportunity for the leaders and decision makers to interface with manufacturers of the latest healthcare technologies, products, equipment and services.
The 2019 event hosted 691 manufacturers and suppliers, and over 30 sessions in various disciplines ranging from Health Finance, Health Management and Administration, Telemedicine, UN SDGs, Public Health, Nursing, Herbal Medicine, Diagnostics among others.
Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH
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