Paidamoyo Chipunza, Harare Bureau
Selected Zimbabwean doctors will from this month commence training in specialised disciplines of medicine, namely oncology, infertility, diabetes and hypertension under an arrangement between First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa and German-based Merck Foundation.
Sixteen doctors from central and district hospitals have so far been selected to undergo the trainings and nearly 100 others are on the waiting list to undergo similar trainings.
In an interview, Family Health director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Bernard Madzima said five of the doctors will receive training in oncology, four in infertility (two in embryology and two in invitro fertilisation (IVF) and nine in diabetes and hypertension.
Dr Madzima said trainings for oncology and infertility will run between six and 12 months with partnering universities in India, while the diabetes and hypertension programmes will be done online with the University of South Wales.
“In April this year, the First Lady met Merck Foundation in Dubai, from which they agreed to have Zimbabwean doctors undergoing these specialised trainings. All costs are borne by Merck Foundation,” said Dr Madzima.
He said Ministry of Health and Child Care assisted the First Lady, who is also the health ambassador, to identify doctors who can undergo the trainings.
Dr Madzima said those training in oncology and infertility were drawn from central hospitals and those undergoing diabetes and hypertension were drawn from district hospitals.
“This is a welcome development as it is going to address challenges our public health institutions are facing in luring specialist skills in areas of oncology and gynaecology,” he said.
“With this programme, we are looking forward to the introduction of Government led fertility clinics in Harare and Bulawayo from which couples with fertility problems can benefit from.”
So far infertility clinics are existent in the private sector from which it costs at least US$3 000 for IVF procedure.
Dr Madzima said doctors undergoing for oncology specialisation will be focusing on radiation and paediatric oncology, which are also key skills required in treatment of cancers in Zimbabwe.
“This is a positive step of addressing some of the human resource challenges we are having as a country,” he said.
“This is also not a once off programme and so far we have received over 100 applications from interested doctors, applications of which will be assessed in the next phase.”
Merck Foundation CEO and president of Merck More than a Mother, Dr Rasha Kelej said commended efforts by the First Lady to end stigma associated with infertility.
“We are proud of our long partnership with the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Her Excellency, Madam Mnangagwa to improve access to equitable and quality healthcare solutions and breaking the infertility stigma through providing speciality training to Zimbabwean doctors and nurses in the fields of diabetes, fertility and oncology care,” he said.
“We strongly believe that building healthcare capacity is the appropriate strategy to improve people’s well-being in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa since the lack of health specialists and skilled staff is a major challenge across our continent.”
Dr Kelej said by working closely with Amai Mnangagwa, Merck Foundation will contribute significantly to the social and economic development of Zimbabwe.
Apart from Zimbabwe, Merck Foundation is also working with 14 other First Ladies from the African continent under its First Lady’s Initiative to address social problems particularly in the health sector.