Connect to telemedicine in 2 months, hospitals ordered

THE Government has issued a two-month deadline to all regional and referral hospitals countrywide to connect to telemedicine system.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Prof Tumaini Nagu issued the order on Sunday, saying the move is to make meaningful the modern medical equipment that the government has purchased and installed in the hospitals.

Prof Nagu noted that the government has made a huge investment in the health sector, including procuring high-tech medical facilities in hospitals such as CT-Scan and MRI machines, hence it would be useful when they are integrated in the telemedicine system.

“By August 6 we want all regional hospitals to get connected to the telemedicine system so that modern equipment such as MRI and CT-Scan machines could communicate in all hospitals,” Prof Nagu stated in Dar es Salaam gracing the event to mark the 2023 National Cancer Survivors Day.

The event, which was organised by the Shujaa Cancer Foundation in collaboration with the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), involved a 10-kilometre charity walk to create awareness over the cancer.

For the hospitals to connect to the system, it would help Tanzanians living in rural areas to access services from specialist doctors stationed in Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) and Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI) without travelling all the way to Dar es Salaam, hence reducing costs and time.

Through the telemedicine, specialist doctors could examine patient’s medical test results and prescribe treatment electronically.

Prof Nagu stated that so far only 10 hospitals have connected to the system.

She reminded Tanzanians that cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were increasing at a high pace, a situation which also increases treatment costs and leads to huge burden to the government.

“We must strive to prevent cancer. In Tanzania we record 40,000 new cases of cancer every year, with the cervical cancer leading. We must continue taking preventive measures, including vaccination against HPV among children, Hepatitis B as well as observe healthy lifestyle,” she urged.

Earlier, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Grace Maghembe: said awareness on cancer started long time ago.

The government has been collaborating with stakeholders including to spread the awareness.

Dr Maghembe urged the public to develop a culture of going for cancer testing so that the disease could be diagnosed at early stages to ease treatment.

Commenting, Executive Director of the Shujaa Cancer Foundation, Ms Gloria Kida, said the aim of the event was to bring together patients and build understanding over the disease and give them hope.

“Our organisation recognises efforts made by the government and health workers in improving cancer treatment services from lower-level health provision facilities,” she admitted.

She added: We commend the government for introducing cost-sharing system for cancer treatment which is aimed at helping more Tanzanians.”

However, she suggested that the government establish the cancer survivors registry to know their number and closely collaborate with private players in strengthening education awareness on cancer.

“We congratulate President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan for her good leadership and continued improvements in infrastructures for health services provision,” she said.

President of the Medical Women Association of Tanzania (MEWATA), Dr Zaitun Bokhary, argued that when cancer is diagnosed at early stages it is curable,  hence she stressed on building awareness on importance of going to hospital for testing.

She promised that the Mewata will continue supporting the ministry in educating the public.

One of cancer survivors: Mr Redy Mwasondole who attended the event allayed fears that being a cancer patient doesn’t mean going to die, but one can survive after treatment.

On his part, Executive Director of the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), Dr Julius Mwaiselage, said the institute has a database for cancer survivors in Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya and Dodoma.

He thanked the government for allocating to the institute about 5.4bn/- for constructing new ICU and purchasing MRI machine.

Dr Mwaisalage noted that annually, the institute serves 8000 new patients and in the past five years it attended to a total of 40000 patients. A treatment costs for each patient is amounting to 3.5m/-.

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