By Prince Osuagwu
Nigeria may have taken the first step towards joining countries like India in leveraging the aggregate economy with the prospects of ICT, especially in the area of telemedicine . This is as Galaxy backbone Plc, last week, gathered a group of physicians, surgeons and ICT professionals at the National Hospital, Abuja to participate in the first demonstration of tele-surgery in Nigeria through its video conference platform.
Galaxy said the event was in response to a reportÂ by the World Health Organization in 2000 which scored the Nigerian healthcareÂ system 187th out of 191 countries. The three days workshop which began from July 13th and ended 15th 2009 was organized to address the knowledge and skills deficit in the healthcare workforce, the significant funds spent sending physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers overseas for training and re-training at huge cost to the economy.
Led by a U.S based surgeon, Dr. Fiemu Nwariaku, a team of surgeons organized a skills training sessionÂ involving the use of a live surgical procedure performed in Dallas, Texas to train a group of over 70 Nigerian surgeons.
During the surgical procedure, the patient underwent cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder) and Nigerian surgeons in Abuja were able to directly interact as well as question theÂ surgeon in Dallas and get tips on how to best perform the procedure. The surgical procedure lasted about one and half hours. The workshop was hosted by the National Hospital, Abuja while the ICT infrastructure was provided by Galaxy Backbone Plc and Compufix Intercom Nigeria Ltd. Galaxy Backbone demonstrated its commitment to the development of e-health infrastructure and the workshop provided the first evidence that healthcare training can be improved and costs reduced by using cutting edge ICT infrastructure.
The course participants rated the content of the course highly andÂ noted that this method could greatlyÂ assist inÂ building capacity in healthcare in Nigeria. According to President, West African College of Surgeons, Professor O. O. Mbonu, â€œthis event demonstrates the possibilities achievable with modern ICT in the healthcare sector and provides a framework forÂ building a robust telemedicine and e-health component to improve healthcare in NigeriaÂ and sub-Sahara Africaâ€.
The USA based faculty is made up ofÂ members of the Association for Academic Surgery which is the largest group of academic surgeons in the U.S. The training course was co-chaired by two U.S based pediatric surgeons, Dr. Ben Nwomeh and Dr. Evan Nadler.
The course was also supported by Ethicon Endosurgery, EES (a Johnson & Johnson Company) and Trigen Healthcare Ltd. EES is a medical device manufacturer with strong commitment to professional education in West Africa,whileTrigen Healthcarehas the primary mission of healthcare training and clinical service in Nigeria.A representative of the Ministry of Defence, Ahmed Safeed at the workshop stated that the ministry shared in the excitement of the participants on the demonstration of Galaxyâ€™s video conferencing capacity and described it as a surprising realization and appreciation of the fact that Galaxy Backbone showed the ability to enable real-time interaction between a team of American surgeons conducting a 2-hour Laparoscopic Choleocystectomy procedure (the surgical removal of the gallbladder) in a theatre in Dallas, Texas, USA and their Nigerian counterparts in Abuja using its video conference facility .
Participants at the workshop, commended the video conference platform for clarity in terms of picture quality and audio.