Paidamoyo Chipunza and Talent Gore
Zimbabwe’s public health institutions will have all patients’ records available in digital form at any health facility after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) partnered Estonia in a project whose pilot phase will be launched within six months.
The process will start as soon as the UAE and Estonian experts complete a needs assessment mission, which began yesterday with a tour of Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital).
The delegation, which included information communication technology experts will visit other hospitals to see how the proposed system could connect with systems already in place.
Once complete, the process is expected to result in the digitalisation of patients’ records as soon as they seek admission at the first hospital after which the same records can be accessed by subsequent departments at all hospitals, including the consulting doctor, further investigations (x-rays, scans, wards etc) and ultimately the pharmacy department.
As a bonus, the Government will be able to assemble instant full statistics, recording and monitoring different disease burdens using the e-system.
Once the system has been successfully implemented at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, it is expected to be rolled out to other health institutions.
Patients will no longer have to narrate their medical history to the attending practitioner.
Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, like most Government facilities, is still capturing and storing records manually.
Speaking before assessing the situation at the hospital yesterday, UAE director of development cooperation department Mr Rashed Al Hemeiri said this latest gesture was part of efforts by his country to support Zimbabwe.
Mr Al Hemeiri said this time around, the support includes Estonia, which is well known for e-solutions.
“We are here to show our continuous effort as UAE to support the healthcare sector in Zimbabwe,” he said. “This is a known typical way of international cooperation.
“We are here with the Estonian delegation, the UAE expert and Estonian expert, to come up with a triangle cooperation between the UAE, Estonia and Zimbabwe where we think is a common interest for the three countries which is the health sector in general and in particular the digitalisation of the health sector.”
Mr Al Hemeiri said the reason for the assessment was to get a picture of what could be done in Zimbabwe with regard to digitalising the records of the health sector.
“We have seen the registration of the hospital and that led us to think of a way of supporting the hospital,” he said.
“We have an expert for Abu Dhabi Health Service Company, which is a big health company not only in the UAE, but in the whole of Middle East.
“We also have our partners from Estonia who are known to be leading in smart governance and we thought that with those two strengths we can be able to get a very strong e-health system in the country.”
Estonian director for development cooperation and humanitarian aid Mrs Kadi Metsandi said when Estonia gained its independence in 1991, it was poor and didn’t have any resources.
“When Estonia gained independence in 1991, we didn’t have anything, we were a very poor country, we didn’t have any resources, but we had the bright minds of our people,” she said.
“Now we don’t have anything on paper in Estonia; we go straight to digital and this is our journey we have lived for almost 30 years.”
Mrs Metsandi said a number of African countries were now discovering Estonia and her country was happy to welcome them and show them its experience and expertise on how they have managed to digitalise.
“It is a long journey and a hard task and everyone needs to be committed,” she said.
“Today we are here to find out what are the needs and what has been done to digitalise Zimbabwe and how we can come in with our experience and expertise.”
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, who accompanied the team on the fact finding mission, welcomed the support from the two countries and further commended UAE for its continuous support.
He said since President Mnangagwa engaged UAE, the country has been supporting the Zimbabwe’s health sector, particularly with medicines and equipment.
“We are very grateful that the team from the UAE has come together with some technical partners from Estonia,” said Dr Moyo. “They are talking of digitalising Sally Mugabe Central Hospital to make it a fully digitalised hospital.
“I have always come here and I have heard from the CEO that they don’t have computers in this place. They are very manual at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital.”
He said the team met officials from the College of Health Sciences and the Ministry of Information Communication Technology to discuss how best they could implement the project.