MUHAS lands milestone anaesthesia laboratory

08Apr 2019
Henry Mwangonde
The Guardian
MUHAS lands milestone anaesthesia laboratory

TANZANIA’s first Anaesthesia and Critical Care Simulation Laboratory was launched yesterday at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), billed to improve surgical services and increase the number of specialists in the field, as it will double as a training facility.

Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS)

The lab is also expected to enable a sharp diminution in the number of deaths caused by poor anaesthesia arising from lack of trained staff in the country, plus absence of infrastructure and equipment especially in rural areas.

The lab set up by Gradian Health Systems, a U.S-based medical technology company, and MUHAS is expected to be “a facility for provision of sophisticated training designed for practicing real-world scenarios in a safe learning environment.”

It is also a symbol of public-private partnership (PPP) and combines specialized training facilities with world-class technology to transform anaesthesia care in every region of Tanzania.

Anaesthesia care is necessary for any surgical procedure, but in Tanzania, the lack of trained anaesthesia staff, infrastructure and equipment leads to high rates of preventable deaths and disabilities.

The setting up of this laboratory is a milestone achievement in critical and anaesthesia care as it supports the government’s efforts to reduce maternal and new-born mortality under its current Health Sector Strategic Plan.

It also lies at the heart of the recently-adopted National Surgical, Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plan (NSOAP), intended to lay the foundation for better, more accessible anaesthesia care in every corner of the country, said the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender Children and the Elderly, Dr Faustine Ndungulile.

Dr Ndungulile said the government welcomed such partnership and called upon other foreign companies to join forces with local investors or public institutions.  

Available data shows there is one anaesthesiologist per million people—meaning most surgeries are performed by non-physicians with a year or less of training. Anaesthesia care requires reliable electricity and supplies of medical oxygen, which is often expensive or unavailable.

Anaesthesia equipment and supplies are either old, broken or non-existent in rural settings, leaving health providers to manage patients with less effective, riskier methods of care.  

Due in part to challenges around anaesthesia, roughly one woman and four newly born die during childbirth every hour in Tanzania, while road accidents kill at least two persons and countless others are injured.  

This reality has personal, social and economic impacts on families and communities. Improved access to anaesthesia care in remote settings will bring safe surgery closer to where emergencies occur, saving the lives of women, children and other surgical patients everyday.  

In his remarks, the President of the Anaesthesiologists Society of Tanzania Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya said the lab will be a centre for offering training on the three pillars of critical care treatment which are removing pain, surgery and care.

 He said the lab will be vital in solving the challenge of lack of infrastructure, trained personnel and health delivery.

 Prof Andrea Pembe, the MUHAS Vice Chancellor said the lab will first be used for anaesthesia but it will be used for offering other services in future, such as interventional radiology.  

In 2018, the government partnered with Gradian Health Systems to supply the country its Universal Anaesthesia Machine (UAM). The UAM is the world’s first internationally-certified anaesthesia machine that can generate its own medical oxygen and work without power, thus saving valuable time, money and lives during surgery.  

Todate, more than 200 Tanzanian health facilities have been equipped with the UAM, an investment of more than three million US dollars.  

With this simulation lab in place, a certified team of instructors from MUHAS will train more than 100 UAM operators already in anaesthetic practice or completing their education.  

Later this year, Gradian will be launching additional simulation laboratories at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) and Bugando Medical Centre (BMC), rolling out a number of local training and mentorship programs in high-need regions. 

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