Despite travelling to Africa being regarded as expensive, the planning process seen as tiresome and security as a concern to many, great number of students have found valuable experience in Africa. You will be attending to different people and patients during your practice, at times you will be required to work amidst limited resources and required to sacrifice your comfort to administer healthcare services. This special field needs research and curiosity to learn and understand what is happening around the world. Tropical diseases may not be experienced in your country, but somewhere in Africa, it’s among the top causes of morbidity and mortality. Healthcare systems around the world also differ but are all directed towards giving quality health services to the population.
For both countries, the public health system consists of different levels with the lowest being the dispensary and the highest a national referral hospital. The national referral hospital provides sophisticated diagnostic, therapeutic, and rehabilitative services while the dispensaries, on the other hand, provide wider coverage for primary health care.
Below are the levels from the highest to the lowest respectively.
During your placement, you will be placed in either a provincial hospital, district hospital or health centres.
The World Bank minimum threshold is 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10 000 population. Kenya and Tanzania are among the developing countries suffering from a shortage of healthcare professionals. Kenya, for instance, has 5,660 doctors and 603 dentists actively employed leading to approximately 1.47 doctors and 1.6 dentists to 10,000 population. The Tanzania doctor-patient ratio is pegged at 0.4: 10,000. This shortage is also very evident in all cadres of healthcare workers.
The disparities in distribution are even worse in rural areas. The Task Force for Global Health Report found that rural and hard-to-reach areas do not have enough qualified healthcare personnel to meet the needs of communities.
One of the things that make shadowing or undertaking an elective in Africa unique is how despite the shortage of healthcare professionals, they still manage to provide healthcare. This is an opportunity to learn how they are able to manage with such a huge number of patients.
The health facilities to population ratio are 2.5 to 10,000. Kyle Howell, a registered nurse undertaking her placement at Coast Provincial General Hospital, Mombasa, Kenya in her journal wrote; The government hospital is definitely for the poor. The last 3+ days I have been in Labor and Delivery where life is not taken for granted. Both clean and sterile gloves can be hard to find, no soap, no hot water… supplies, in general, can be scarce. Most of the population also has to go for at least 1KM to access a healthcare facility.Half the world still lacks access to essential health services with the majority of this number from developing countries with 100 million pushed into poverty due to Health costs. Join our program in Africa to understand the strides and challenges faced in the journey of ensuring that everyone, everywhere accesses essential quality health services.