Congo Emergency Medicine Project

Randwick Rotary Club received funds from a Rotary District 9675 2017/2018 District Grant and also contributed Club funds for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Emergency Medicine Training project.

This project:

(a) fostered a framework in Congo’s capital Kinshasa to further develop academic resources and the Ministry of Health’s National Program for Emergencies and Humanitarian Actions governance capabilities; and

(b) broadened the scope of Emergency Medicine training with delivery in the DRC’s lowest resourced province, Equateur; and

(c) developed Safe Motherhood/Emergency neo-natal training to health centres and at Congo Protestant University (UPC) Medical School in Kinshasa, with the goal of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates.

The project was a next step towards providing basic skills training in Emergency Medicine to doctors and nurses in the low resource setting of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This need was first identified in 2015 by healthcare leaders in the International Federation for Emergency Medicine (www.ifem.cc), African Federation for Emergency Medicine (AFEM http://www.afem.info), WHO Emergency Medicine, Trauma and Acute Care Program (http://www.who.int/emergencycare/en/), HandUp Congo (www.handupcongo.org), Rotary Australia World Community Service (www.rawcs.org.au) and Congo Protestant University (“UPC” www.upcrdc.org) when they met in South Africa to help shape the project.

Despite a clear need for, and growing interest in, developing Emergency Medicine in the DRC there was no postgraduate training program in the speciality for doctors and nurses.  There was no functional public pre-hospital system of ambulances and paramedics, although some private hospitals did provide an ambulance service.  Basic and advanced life support were not a standard part of medical training.  Few Congolese medical institutions have the capacity to train recognized specialists of any kind, and most doctors must seek this training outside the country.  UPC is currently the only university in the Congo able to train family medicine specialists.

After an initial assessment of the potential to deliver Emergency Medicine education through the UPC infrastructure in 2015, HandUp Congo established a RAWCS project, “Building a Healthy Congo” (Project 47 2015-16) to develop the initiative further in close collaboration with UPC and AFEM’s Vice President, Dr Muller Mundenga, the first Congolese to be accredited as an Emergency Medicine Specialist.

RAWCS/HandUp Congo project leader for Emergency Medicine, Dr Vera Sistenich, travelled twice to Congo in 2015 and 2016 to work with UPC, the DRC’s Ministry of Health and Dr Mundenga to establish a basic training framework. They conducted training to 5 teaching hospitals where UPC’s medical students receive work experience. More than 400 doctors, nurses and medical students received the training.

In 2017 Randwick Rotary Club obtained a Rotary District 9675 District Grant for the Congo Emergency Medicine Training Project to enable the continued provision of new services and training.

In November 2018, after delays caused by outbreaks of the Ebola virus, Australian Emergency Medicine Specialist and HandUp Congo’s health team leader, Dr Vera Sistenich – in collaboration with four Congolese doctors – carried out the activities funded by Randwick Rotary’s district grant.

More than 600 Congolese doctors, nurses and medical students now have a solid understanding of Emergency Medicine as a discipline, and are collaborating with one another in a new culture of learning. Infants are being saved thanks to healthcare teams at 8 hospitals and clinics having knowledge about neonatal trauma management. The DRC’s Ministry of Health representative and coordinator of the National Emergency Response and Humanitarian Aid, Dr Mwaluka, participated in the November 2018 training and has expressed full support. These recent achievements would not have been possible without Randwick Rotary’s support.

As of 2018, the DRC was ranked 137th out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index.