After presenting at the Hong Kong Hospital Authority Annual Conference (the theme was innovation in healthcare through technological development), Huw is on the road again: last week in Malawi, meeting with the Ministry of Health and local stakeholders in preparation for expansion into Malawi.
He is currently in Zambia again, with VDrs Trustee James Phiri, for Ministry of Health meetings and touring a number of the Virtual Doctors sites to support the Clinical Officers (COs) we serve with our telemedicine service.
Two days ago, when Huw returned to Lusaka, the rural neighbour’s young son was taken ill in the middle of the night with suspected appendicitis. It was not easy finding an open clinic at 2am as even in Lusaka, the capital city, there is no readily available A&E! Eventually they found a clinic and two tired COs who were able to help. Appendicitis was ruled out and the boy discharged after further tests in the morning. This was yet another frightening reminder of how lucky we are in Europe with our healthcare and how important the work of the Virtual Doctors is!
A case from the field: Pellagra
During a busy clinic one of the Kafue based clinical officers saw a 42 year old female patient. She had an itchy, painful rash around her neck and on her arms, hands and feet. This had been troubling her for 3 months and despite treatment was no better. The rash looked dry, peeling and was much darker than her normal skin. She was known to be HIV positive too.
The clinical officer sent off a patient file with some very helpful photos to Virtual Doctors. The Volunteer Virtual doctor felt this was likely to be a case of Pellagra. The reply was sent giving clear explanation and treatment advice. Education was also given to help with ongoing learning and to improve treatment of other cases.
Our Lusaka office
The Virtual Doctors opened its first office outside the UK in Lusaka at the end of April, in the suburbs of the capital, off the Leopards Hill road to the South West of the City. The small office is located within the ‘Latitude 15 Degrees’ Hotel business area. We would like to thank the owners for their kind sponsorship of part of the rental costs, which include the stable internet connection our work requires.
This is where our Field Assistant Stellah Chilembo carries out her follow up work with the clinical officers and patients when she is not meeting with them in person. She is our link with the field! This data is important for monitoring and improving our service as well as for our all-important fundraising efforts. The office also provides an all-important safe-guarding place for our equipment.
Fundraising and sporting challenge
A reminder that we are looking for fit (or at least persevering) people to take part in the Ultra Challenge series, which cover coastal, urban and country routes: “Walk, or Jog, or Run – 25km, 50km or 100km - Individuals & Teams - For Charity or Self Fund- Fantastic Routes, Full Support”.
The events left are the South Coast Challenge on 26/27 August – running from Eastbourne to Arundel, it is very much local to us to many of our supporters! – and the two London events on 9/10 September: the Thames Path Challenge and the more urban and shorter (25km) Thames Bridges Trek .
It is not too late to take advantage of our reduced-cost places, sign up, set up your fundraising page and raise much needed funds for the Virtual Doctor while participating in an amazing outdoor sports experience. VDrs Executive Business Assistant Lina has lived to tell the tale of the London2Brighton (Quarter) Challenge and says “I’d love to do it again”!!
Calling to our Dorset (UK) music-loving followers!
Our lovely supporters from The United Church of Dorchester are holding an event in support of the Virtual Doctors this coming Sunday, 2nd July at 3pm, United Church of Dorchester.
After the success of Christ Church Lewes’ support last year, 2017 has seen the adoption of the Virtual Doctors by The United Church of Dorchester, whose congregation is already raising much needed funds for the charity.
Volunteers and Supporter News
Improving our communication channels and online presence
Terry Cann (left), our new webmaster and IT support volunteer, is now fully settled since joining us in early May. He is currently liaising with the VDrs app development team to understand the process of its on-going development.
In the meantime, he is working with Lina on optimising our website and our online presence in general, with the invaluable support of another Virtual Doctors volunteer, Geoff Meakin (left) from SERP Health, an online marketing company for healthcare. Terry: “Geoff recommends improvements to the website that would help search engine optimisation and I implement what Geoff recommends. Geoff and I both review the site for usability and impact and again I implement it.”
If you follow us on social media, you may have noticed the increased activity following the success of our Small Charity Week awareness campaign. The aim of increasing our support base is to hopefully generate more much needed donations.
Ubuntu is a southern African term which means ‘doing something for others’. 1-7 June was Volunteer Week and we would like to take this opportunity to thank yet again our past, present – and future! – volunteers, without whom the Virtual Doctors could not survive.
With a great performance from our newest district!
In the last month we’ve expanded into 6 new clinics in Luangwa district. The clinics at Luangwa Borna, Mandombe, Luangwa High School, Chicopee, Kasinsa and Sinyawagora have two nurses and a certified midwife as well as the Clinical Officers using the app. In only a month this new district has referred almost a case a day.
It’s great to see the service going from strength to strength.
Our Country lead Dr. Phallon Mwaba (far left) with our Luangwa Clinical Officers
Walk for the Virtual Doctors!
Our very own Executive Business Assistant Lina Woehrling has teamed up with a friend to walk the quarter option for Action Challenge’s London2Brighton to raise funds and awareness for the Virtual Doctors’ cause. That’s 31km on the 27th May, so less than a month to train and a first deadline on the 12th May of having raised 50% of the fundraising target (based on the cost of equipping a Clinical Officer for a whole year). Help spur her on by visiting and sharing Justgiving page — we thank you in advance for your generosity!
If this is giving you itchy feet, there is an exciting opportunity to support the Virtual Doctors throughout 2017: we have signed up as a listed charity for the whole Ultra Challenge series, which covers coastal, urban and country routes: Walk, or Jog, or Run - 100km, 50km, or 25km - Individuals & Teams - Fantastic Routes, Full Support.
We have 5 inspirational endurance events for you to take part in:
(Isle of Wight Challenge — April — has already passed)
London2Brighton Challenge - 27/28 May
Cotswold Way Challenge - 1/2 July
South Coast Challenge - 26/27 August
Thames Path Challenge - 9/10 September
Thames Bridges Trek - 9 September
Contact Lina to find out more. Go on, May is national walking month!
A case from the field
We recently had a case where a 9-year-old boy was brought to a rural health centre having been bitten in the leg by a snake, most likely a puff-adder. The cytotoxic venom caused necrosis and made the wound spread all over the calf (photo withheld!). The Clinical Officer (CO) sent a patient file to the Virtual Doctors for advice. Large wounds like this one have a high risk of complications such as abscess formation or bone infection. These can result in the necessary amputation of the limb or lead to an overwhelming infection (sepsis) and death. The Virtual Doctors service provided a quick response and after taking guidance from Max, our Paediatric surgeon, the CO was able to treat the injury appropriately. The patient made a full recovery, avoiding a journey to the hospital, difficult because of his injury, and the CO can now manage and deal with similar cases in the future.
Check our website for Minnie’s blog from the field for more cases like this.
Volunteer Spotlight: our dev team
As promised, we are turning the spotlight this month on the team at Landmark Information Group, who have been long term and loyal supporters. While the original development team was much larger, the core members are now Jon Ody, Nick Ward and Lavan Naillanathan (below). Jon commented on his Virtual Doctors experience:
"Volunteering for the Virtual Doctors has been a very rewarding experience for us all. It has given us the opportunity to put our technical experience to use for a great cause. Developing a telemedicine solution to be used in the field in Zambia has been both exciting and challenging. The limited internet access faced by the Clinical Officers on a daily basis highlights how lucky we are and how we can take having access to the internet for granted. This limitation alone forced us to think in new ways when developing the telemedicine solution. Working with the Virtual Doctors team has been a lot of fun. All the people we have had contact with have been supportive and very committed to the Charity. We all hope Virtual Doctors continues to be a great success and continues making a positive impact to Zambia’s rural communities."
We say a huge thanks to them for their continued support; developing, updating and tweaking the app seems to be a never-ending task and they approach it with great skill and enthusiasm.
We really couldn’t do this without them.
New additions to our team
We are still looking for volunteers who can make an on-going commitment to help with Social Media and all-round communications — contact Lina if interested.
Friends with an MP or a peer? Ahead of ParliamentWeek (13-19 November) we are looking for parliamentarians interested in becoming advocates for the Virtual Doctors. Please contact Lina if interested.