Africa: Telemedicine project to benefit 5 hospitals in Tanzania

Africa: Telemedicine project to benefit 5 hospitals in Tanzania

By Abdulwakil Saiboko:(Tanzania Daily News)

Four hospitals in Dar es Salaam and one in Coast Region will be connected by telemedicine technology in December, this year, in a move expected to enhance efficiency and reduce unnecessary transfers of patients. The Principal of Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), Prof John Kondoro, named the hospitals to be connected in the pilot project as Mwananyamala, Amana, Temeke and Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), (all in Dar es Salaam) and Tumbi Hospital in Coast Region.

Prof Kandoro said this over the weekend during a tour by the Indian High Commissioner, Mr Debnath Shaw and the Zimbabwean Minister for Science and Technology Development, Prof Heneri Dzinotyiweyi. Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance.

It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations. The two leaders had gone to DIT in different junctures to tour the Tanzania and India ICT Centre of Excellence which was launched in May, last year, by President Jakaya Kikwete and the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

Prof Kondoro said telemedicine was one of the potential sectors in which the DIT wanted to venture using the supercomputer facility which is installed at the centre. The Linux based supercomputing cluster named "Param Serengeti" is intended to be used for education and research in various scientific fields and it includes 20 Terabytes of raw storage and 38 Terabytes of tape backup along with relevant backup software. By Abdulwakil Saiboko

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The computer is one of only three in Africa, with one in South Africa and another in Cairo, Egypt. "Real life complex problems and scientific and engineering research are the driving force behind the introduction of the centre, thus we have established telemedicine centre which is part of the supercomputer to answer health challenges," he said.

"The connection of these hospitals will allow for translation of various medical tests by a team of doctors through video conferencing and we will be able to reduce unnecessary transfers and movements of patients from one hospital to another," he said.

At the moment, he said, the named hospitals were on various processes of constructing units that would be installed with necessary equipment for telemedicine. "Here at DIT everything is set and we already have a special room for that purpose with all the equipment," he said.

Mr Shaw commended the improvement made so far in utilizing the supercomputer facility, saying investment in telemedicine would bring revolution in health service delivery. "I am impressed by the facility and we are happy to be associated with this project. The telemedicine centre will in future play a big and vital role not only in Tanzania, but to the whole of the East African region and beyond," he said.

The Indian High Commissioner said his government was ready and committed to continue working with the government of Tanzania in capacity building and in improving the ICT centre at DIT. The Zimbabwean Minister for Science and Technology Development, Prof Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, said his tour to the institute aimed at looking for possibilities of collaborating with the DIT in ensuring that the centre benefits Zimbabwe as well.

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"This is one of such a modern facility in the world of technology in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and if we (Zimbabwe) enter in a kind of partnership with DIT, I believe we will be able to push our economy ahead," he said. Prof Dzinotyiweyi said further that his country would be interested to benefit with the presence of supercomputer at DIT in the area of computations and data storage.