FEATURED: Center for research on minimally invasive surgeries to open in Rwanda

Due to improved technology in medicine, some medical practioners especially in Africa including Rwanda find themselves left behind due to lack of skills or simply because of the environment in which they operate which limit their acquisition of modern techniques used in today’s field of medicine.
A demonstration on how the technology operates.
A demonstration on how the technology operates.

Due to improved technology in medicine, some medical practioners especially in Africa including Rwanda find themselves left behind due to lack of skills or simply because of the environment in which they operate which limit their acquisition of modern techniques used in today’s field of medicine.

Part of the technology skills gap is however about to be addressed as IRCAD, an institution dedicated to research and capacity building in minimally invasive surgery.

In partnership with the Government of Rwanda the firm has reached an agreement to establish an IRCAD center within the country, to train next generation of surgeons on how to develop new techniques for minimally invasive surgery.

IRCAD is a renowned France based health institute specializing in minimally invasive surgery with branches in Brazil and Taiwan. The institution was formed in 1994 by Professor Jacque Marescaux, aware of future healthcare and economic issues.

The institute will be the center for Excellency for doing research and education on minimally invasive surgeries for the African continent.

The institute aim at improving surgical interventions in Rwanda and Africa in general, besides, it will minimize the cost and time spent on processing cancer surgeries and will be a center for Excellency for research and education on minimally invasive surgery as well.

Impact of IRCAD on Africa and the world in medicine

Dr Joseph Setako Twahirwa, an orthopedic surgeon in Belgium, who is also one of the initiators of IRCAD Rwanda, says IRCAD is more than the first target on cancer.

He says the center however, will focus on coelioscopy, and will also be a center for Rwanda’s current needs for orthopedics, gynecology and digestive surgery, which is less expensive.

The second target, he says is the research in all fields of surgery, training to use robotics and computer science in surgery, automated 3D modeling of patients; from their medical images, modeling in surgical planning and simulation software.

Twahirwa further notes that IRCAD STRASBOURG in France is the first one where doctors from Europe are trained, and later started a brance in Taiwan and South Asia.

The impact that will come along with IRCAD, especially on Africa, Twahira says the project will generate synergy between all African doctors working in Africa and those in Diaspora.

Opportunity for investors to Rwanda, Twahirwa says it’s high because the trainee will come from 54 countries of Africa, thus good opportunity to invest in the country.

“Another impact is that industries and investors will be interested in biomedical engineering equipments maintance, because trainees in this area will come from all over Africa,” he says.

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Professor Jacques Marescaux, the president and Founder of IRCAD and his delegation early this month met with His Excellency President Paul Kagame and other health stakeholders, to discuss the commitment.

Why Rwanda?

The institute will be built in Masaka, with the implementation strategies concluded after Professor Jacques Marescaux, the president and Founder of IRCAD and his delegation early this month met with His Excellency President Paul Kagame and other health stakeholders, to discuss the commitment.

Karl STORZ, a German Company that was among the delegation led by the Managing Director Sybil STORZ, will provide most of the machines that will be used at the IRCAD center.

IRCAD chose Rwanda because of the government’s strong commitment towards improving health.

“After meeting with a number of surgeons and officials from the Ministry of Health and government last July, I realized that everyone is committed,”says Prof. Jacques Marescaux.

 “I had the chance to visit the memorial site and other parts of the country, this exposed me to what Rwandans under the visionary leadership of President Kagame have been able to achieve, only 20 years after stopping genocide,” he adds

He says that he is optimistic that IRCAD that is expected to completed in eighteen months as soon as works start, could be the best one for the center of attractiveness for the whole of Africa.

Delegates had an opportunity to visit the site in Masaka where the institute is yet to be established and a workshop on cancer research in computer science was also carried out by IRCAD for the medical students in computer science.

How it works

According to experts, these procedures are performed through tiny incisions instead of one large opening, and because these incisions are small, patients tend to have quicker recovery times and less discomfort than with conventional surgery.

A patient is discharged after two days only. Yet with the previous way of surgery one could spend more than ten days or even a month before being discharged.

Laparoscopic surgery is the one that works with this surgery, where the inner parts of the body, chest surgery, and kidneys, prostate are worked on.

The good thing about this kind of surgery is that it helps when it comes to accuracy, especially when tracing the particular part that needs surgery. It is a technique that has fewer risks compared to other kind of surgeries.

In terms of cancer treatment, Dr Theobald Hategekimana Director of University Teaching Hospital (CHUK) says it has come to ease and put accuracy in treatment.

“You get to cut exactly the part that has cancer you put radiation precisely where it has to go, which is not the case with the ordinary surgery where there are chances of putting radiation in the wrong place, which has effects to the body,” he says.

What is expected?

The technology of computer science today doesn’t exist in a lot of countries, yet it is very important. This technology will ease treatment for patients, make it easy to do a follow up after treatment, patients will be discharged after a short period of time, so it is less expensive and will reduce chances of infections as well.

With the center in the country, it will attract different doctors and professionals from all over Africa as well as across the world, to come and work in Rwanda.

According to Malick Kayumba, the Head of Communications at Rwanda Biomedical Center the center will work as a very important network of high rank professors from all over the world, who will be coming at the center and teach doctors from all over the world on the new technology.

He explains that this will be done on research and education but, since there will be that opportunity of having specialized and skilled doctors around to serve the African population.

“Having IRCAD here in Rwanda will be good for networking among best professors from all over the World and surgeons from African countries”, he says.

Kayumba says that the doctors from the center and those within the hospital will again have an opportunity to share experience while carrying out some surgeries.

Apart from that, this is also one way of promoting business in Africa especially Rwanda.

Gratien Shumbusho cyber security for the ministry of health says, with the new technology, surgions will improve and be precise while they are doing their surgery. It means they are going to computer science skills to improve how surgery is done.

“This is going to impact the health sector in a big way, first of all doctors are going to receive training this will enhance their skills in the use of minimal invasive surgery. The patients are to benefit as well since risks are limited,” he says.

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The delegation visited The Kigali Genocide Memorial centre.

 Addressing challenges

According to Hategekimana, the new project will help in carrying out surgeries without the need of opening the body.

“We have doctors who had started using laparoscopic surgery but, with the project, they will get the enough and required knowledge on this,” he says.

He adds that the doctors in Rwanda doing this are few, so they need more, with the center, more doctor are expected to be trained on this new technology.

According to Prof. Alex Butera, the chief consultant orthopedic Surgeon, this new technology we are embracing is the future of surgery in the world.

“Whichever country picks it gets to its destination before others, it helps the doctors by using innovation and new technology to do better and decrease the complications, so it also helps people to train others more easily and you can work on more complicated cases, which would have required going elsewhere outside Africa,” he says.

Jonathan Nshuti, a first year student of computer science at University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology says that now days the world is running in high technology.

“Artificial intelligence is taking over; the problems regarding treating patients in robotics system are an amazing step. This is a good technology that is coming in our country, in our hospitals, our clinics, where patients will be getting surgeries without too much scars, they will be safe and it will be the easiest way to monitor problems,” he says.

He adds that technology is going to develop more; with more experiences from abroad from people are well advanced, new initiatives, in the coming 15 years technology will have taken over.

He is however adamant that there will be a huge development in this field of health because of the power of technology.

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