About 4,000 health caregivers in the country are set to benefit from a yearlong training exercise to be conducted by a visiting team of specialists, nurses, and health managers from 23 US varsities.
The 116 experts in various medical fields started work at their respective postings across the country yesterday.
They are in the country under the auspices of Human Resources for Health (HRH) programme, a seven-year partnership between Rwanda and the US and institutions such as Global Fund and Clinton Foundation, which started in 2012.
According to Prof. Phillip Cotton, the principal of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at University of Rwanda, the visitors will not only train under- and post-graduate students at the institution, but also staff in various district and referral hospitals countrywide.
Through the partnership, the US varsities supply full-time medical, nursing, health management and dentistry faculty who are paired with the Rwandan faculty and students to ensure knowledge transfer and upgrading of clinical and didactic skills.
The 10 HRH priority areas are internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, pathology, anaesthesiology and emergency medicine.
Others are nursing, midwifery, public health, global health delivery, and health management.
Prof. Cotton said about 4,000 health sector players are to be influenced by this team by the end of their tour around this time next year.
“The biggest focus is on medical specialists and nurses, and at least 500 and 5,000 specialists and nurses, respectively, are expected to benefit country wide by 2019,” he said.
The HRH programme was chosen as a feasible model compared to the small scale cooperative efforts between individual academic institutions involving resource exchange.
“We are here not only to share knowledge and experience in the medical field, but also to learn something from our counterparts,” said Dr Francis Fezeu, a neurosurgeon with the University of Virginia, US.
He will be working with Central University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (Chuk).
About 160 medical specialists have been trained under the programme since it was launched by President Paul Kagame and former US President Bill Clinton in August 2012, according to Parfait Uwaliraye, the director-general of planning and health information systems at the Ministry of Health.
Jean d’Amour Manirafasha, the Rulindo District health officer, said he was hopeful the training will be on job-based, saving time and money that would have been spent travelling to acquire the same skills from a foreign country.
“It’s two-way beneficial; you get to study and still have time to attend to patients,” Manirafasha said.
The University of Rwanda’s College of Medical and Health Sciences is the only training institution for doctors in the country, admitting about 100 students every year for Medicine.
Dr Theobald Hategekimana, the director-general of Chuk, said the programme has had a big impact on departments like pediatrics, internal medicine and gynecology at the hospital in the last two years.
“The visiting medics have not only helped in training our staff, but also attended to patients too, hence helping reduce the backlog,” he said.
Dr Vincent Rusanganwa, the in-charge of medical education and research at the Ministry of Health, said there is still shortage of medical staff in the country.
Currently, statistics indicate that there is only one doctor for every 15,000 people.
As of August 2012, Rwanda had 633 general practitioners, 7,286 nurses and 45,000 health workers.