Virtual Doctors blog – Stellah Chilembo
This blog will capture the many diverse roles played by employees and volunteers across the Virtual Doctors. I’m a final year university student in the UK and am planning a career in journalism. As such, I’m interested in writing about global affairs and am drawn to the work done by the Virtual Doctors. Here is the first instalment in a series of blogs about the organisation and its staff.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to Stellah Chilembo, who has been our Zambian field assistant for 2 years and eight months. Stellah monitors the Virtual Doctors’ service and encourages the Clinical Officers (health care workers in the Zambian clinics) to use it in order to provide the community with better healthcare.
A job like this comes with daily challenges. Stellah is particularly focussed with other members of the Zambia team on improving the Clinical Officers’ understanding of the charity and its motivations – empowering and educating Zambian health workers. It’s obvious that Clinical Officers, see such benefits. One of them, Josias Phiri, told me that “there are cases that we have limited knowledge about and with the help of the Virtual Doctors we handle those cases with confidence”. The key point Stellah has to stress is that the VDrs is a non-profit organisation working solely for the benefit of the Zambian community. Once they all fully understand this she is confident that they will embrace the service even more.
The positive elements of Stellah’s role far outweigh the negatives, with her favourite parts of the job being conducting training days and meeting the Clinical Officers because “this leads to new ideas, new people and new places.” She told me that she is 100% sure that her hard work and that of her colleagues both in Zambia and the UK has had a positive impact on the community by reducing unnecessary referrals and deaths. This is the biggest challenge for communities in rural Zambia where just having access to transportation when referred poses a major problem as patients often face an 8-mile walk to their local clinic, while a hospital referral could mean days of travel and disruption to the whole family.
With regard to the patients themselves, Stellah can see that they appreciate the work that the charity is doing and both Clinical Officers and patients alike have noted an improvement in the response time of our virtual doctors. What would benefit the patients now, according to Stellah, would be awareness activities, in order to enhance the patients’ understanding of the Virtual Doctors, as there is not always time for Clinical Officers to explain this to their patients.
Going forward Stellah is confident that the healthcare in Zambia will continue to improve thanks to the Virtual Doctors. The opinions of people like Stellah, on our frontline, is invaluable to our work and provides us not only with insights into where improvement is needed but also assurance that the contribution of every member of the Virtual Doctors team is creating better lives for rural communities in Zambia.
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If you would like to find out more about the work of the Virtual Doctors, how you could get involved as a volunteer, help to raise awareness or funds then contact Jo or check out our fundraising pages here, here and here.