Oliver Kazunga recently in Tsholotsho
THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has adopted a telemedicine model that would be rolled out in the country’s rural health institutions to improve access to services.
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and administer treatment of patients at a distance using telecommunication technology. Potraz head of marketing and international relations, Mrs Sibonginkosi Muteyiwa, revealed this last week in Tsholotsho where the telecoms regulator handed over six laptops and two multi-purpose industrial printers to Tsholotsho and Sipepa Hospitals. Dlamini High and Tshino Primary schools also received two multi-purpose industrial printers and 20 laptops from Potraz as part of efforts to promote the Government’s e-learning programme.
“We have got a special project called telemedicine that we will be rolling out as Potraz. Telemedicine is a project, which connects rural district hospitals to clinics in the same district where the health facilities can be between 200 and 300 kilometres where doctors cannot go,” said Mrs Muteyiwa.
“So what it (telemedicine) does is that here (district hospital) there will be ICT equipment including a big screen where the doctor would do consultations at rural clinics through the ICTs without actually having to visit the clinics.
“The patient at the rural clinic will be diagnosed by the doctor over the Internet and communicate information on medical service for the patient with the nurse at the rural clinic.”
It could not be established how much the organisation was investing towards the new model.
Mrs Muteyiwa said the ICT equipment, would go a long way in promoting health services in Tsholotsho and that it had been sourced through a request by Potraz board vice chairman, Retired Major General Sibangumuzi Khumalo. She said Potraz’s top mandate was to ensure that every citizen in Zimbabwe has access to ICT services.
“So what we have done here in Tsholotsho and throughout the country is that we have rolled out a number initiatives, one of which is here in Tsholotsho, where we have come to hand over some laptops and other ICT gadgets to connect these Government institutions. With telemedicine we are connecting district hospitals to small clinics in rural areas,” said Mrs Muteyiwa.
She expressed optimism that telemedicine would go a long way in addressing the shortage of doctors in the country.
“I am sure you are aware that there is a shortage of doctors and so what this project does is that it connects a qualified doctor at a district hospital to a rural hospital maybe without a doctor but has nurses. We are rolling out this telemedicine project after we have completed the pilot project presently underway at Nyanga District Hospital after which the actual project will be rolled out throughout the country,” said Mrs Muteyiwa.
On e-learning, she said Potraz was working around the clock to ensure that by 2020 all schools were connected to ICT so that every child has a basic appreciation and understanding of computers. Of late, the telecommunications regulator has taken the e-learning drive to rural schools across Zimbabwe handing over a number of ICT equipment to schools. Rt Maj Gen Khumalo who was part of the visit said he had sourced the ICT equipment for Tsholotsho so that the area was not left out in the country’s development agenda.
“It is very important for me that Tsholotsho District has received such assistance from Potraz because it (ICT) brings the development that the district wishes to have. It is a great occasion for us that we have managed to give those two schools and two hospitals the ICT equipment,” he said.
“There is a huge requirement for ICT equipment in Tsholotsho. Therefore, with time and resources permitting, it is my wish that this project is availed to other public institutions in the district.”
Rt Maj Gen Khumalo also said there was a need for Tsholotsho District to scale up rural electrification, particularly in Tsholotsho North, so as to support e-Government and e-learning programmes. — @okazunga