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Medical Stakeholders Advocate for Strengthening of Emergency Healthcare Systems in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13The 5th African Conference on Emergency Medicine officially came to an end on Thursday, in which the over 500 participants covered a wide range of topics in the field of emergency medicine.

These include Advocating for emergency care systems in Africa, Social accountability & emergency medicine, integrating emergency medicine with maternal health, emergency nursing in Africa amongst others.

The Robust conference programme, which was graced by Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi and the President of the African Federation for Emergency Medicine Benjamin W. Wachira, has been developed to ensure that participants are equipped with the necessary tools to develop contextual policies, procedures and resources for emergency care that are customised to Africa for easier adoption.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Dr. Mwangangi said that Kenya would fast track the implementation of the Emergency Medical Care Policy 2020 – 2030 to address the management of the rising numbers of patients with acute communicable and non – communicable diseases that currently seek treatment in the various emergency departments across the country.

“The implementation of the policy, focuses on priority areas such as investment on EMC infrastructure, Emergency Command and Control Centres, Ambulance Coordination System and Dispatch centres, information and communication technology and strengthening leadership and governance at all levels,” said Mwangangi.

Wachira, who is also the founding director of the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, stated that “For Kenya to achieve universal health care coverage, there is need to strengthen the emergency health care system which serves as the first point of contact for our health system. Effective universal emergency care has the potential to reduce deaths in Kenya by 50% and disabilities by a third”.

Among its various projects, the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation has undertaken is a partnership with the Ministry of Health and the County Governments to map out and establish standardised emergency care centres around the country which will allow Kenyans to receive quality lifesaving emergency care no matter where they are.

What is Emergency Medicine?-

Emergency medicine is the field of medicine concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute and urgent aspects of illness and injury affecting patients of all age groups requiring immediate medical attention.

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Which are the emergency medicine areas of concern in Kenya?

According to the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, there is a need for an emergency medical care policy in Kenya. Emergency care centres across the country need to be standardised to provide quality lifesaving emergency medical care.

The Foundation further reveals that there is no public ambulance system thus many emergencies rely on taxis and bodabodas. In case of an emergency, Wachira noted there lacks a single short-code emergency access toll-free number to get an ambulance.

Despite there being many road traffic accidents, many victims do not receive immediate lifesaving emergency medical treatment thus die on the road or on the way to the hospital.

The emergency medicine areas of concern in Africa.-

The Foundation also reveals that many countries lack policies on emergency medical care.

The COVID – 19 pandemic has placed an additional burden on healthcare systems that were already struggling with emergency and critical care.

Healthcare systems are underdeveloped to handle the burden of communicable and non – communicable diseases (hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart disease).

Despite the increased number of disasters across the continent, the emergency care response systems have not been developed respond appropriately to reduce morbidity and mortality.

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-Challenges unique to Africa with regards to emergency medicine-

A report by World Health organization indicates that healthcare systems on the continent are still underdeveloped and poorly resourced.

“We have a different disease burden in Africa and are still need to optimise our systems specifically to deal with these especially from the emergency care perspective,” Dr Mwangangi said.

-What is the status of emergency medicine in East Africa?-

Data submitted by the Foundation reveals that most countries (Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda) have already embraced emergency medicine and are making strides to strengthen their systems. The four countries have also established training programs for emergency care providers and strengthened their public pre- hospital emergency care systems.

Kenya still remains to embrace emergency medicine as part of the healthcare system.

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