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Chinese medical teams adds value to health service in Zimbabwe

The Chinese medical teams in Zimbabwe have helped improve the health delivery service in the southern African country and won recognition from the government and its people.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Obadiah Moyo, the chief executive officer of Chitungwiza Central Hospital, described the Chinese doctors as “highly skilled and extremely professional”. “They are very experienced and have imparted a lot of knowledge to our local doctors. Their presence has provided a lot of benefits to our population and added value to our health delivery system,” he said.

Moyo added that apart from providing professional service, the Chinese doctors also brought with them sophisticated equipment which has benefited locals, citing the eye camps at Chitungwiza Central Hospital at which hundreds of partially blind patients received free cataract operations.

In Zimbabwe, the first Chinese medical team was dispatched in 1984 to work in public institutions. This was also the time the Chinese government built the now upgraded Chitungwiza Central Hospital, which apart from giving conventional medicine, also applied acupuncture.

The current team, which arrived on Jan. 8, 2011, is the 12th group to the country, comprises nine doctors and one logistics officer all stationed in Harare, although Chinese doctors have previously worked at other health centers in Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Chinhoyi.

Generally, the Chinese medical teams comprise doctors specializing in western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and massage, as well as a combination of both.

The Harare Central Hospital now has two, a urologist and an orthopedic surgeon, and Parirenyatwa Hospital has five, including a specialist physician and others working in orthopedics, urology and radiology. Two anesthetists service both hospitals.

Xiao Xiangchen, Harare based medical team leader, told Xinhua in an interview that the teams at times worked under difficult conditions but were never discouraged from continuing with their work.

“In many countries and regions, the members of the Chinese medical teams have been overcoming difficulties which include a hard medical environment and shortage of medicines, in order to render services to local people,” he said.

“At the same time of curing sickness, the Chinese medical teams try their best to help recipient countries ameliorate medical conditions and improve local medical staff’s technical level. According to figures, clinical medical personnel trained by Chinese medical teams sums up to tens of thousands,” Xiao said.

Away from their stations, the Chinese medical teams are also involved in community projects such as helping children orphaned by HIV and Aids.

“We provide social responsibility programs such as free medical help children in rural areas and also participate in emergency services,” team leader Xiao said.

By working together with local colleagues and providing excellent medical service to the patients, the Chinese doctors enjoyed the good working results from their dedication to local people, but they also face challenge.

The only female doctor in the team, Chen Man Hong, said she liked her work in Zimbabwe, however, she encountered difficulties in the areas of culture and tradition, given the local dishes served daily in the hospital’s canteens, she said she tried to be used to the local taste of porridge.

She also mentioned about communication problems with patients who could not express themselves properly in English. She must rely on nurses and other local colleagues to understand their problems. That pushed her and her colleagues to start learning local Shona languages so that they could communicate better with the patients.

She said she always missed her young son left behind at home and was looking forward to taking her one month’s vacation to visit her son back in China.

Dr. Wang Jinrong who is a urologist in the team echoed Chen’s sentiments. He added that the biggest challenge for the team workers, however, was exposure to HIV and diseases such as diarrhea and malaria, given the evidences that three Chinese doctors had accidentally been pricked with needles during the course of their work and one of the patients involved was HIV- positive.

“You can imagine the stress the doctor has to go through as he waits to find out if he is safe. One has to take the medicine for 28 days and the side effects include vomiting, dizziness and diarrhea, but we never complain. Every Chinese doctor is an ambassador of Chinese technology and friendship,” Wang said.

“We hope to provide the best service for the people of Zimbabwe and cooperate with local doctors. We are very proud and happy to work here. In the coming two years, all of us will work hard and try to do something for the greater friendship of Zimbabwe and China,” Wang said.

The Chinese government is currently in Zimbabwe building a rural hospital at Mahusekwa Growth point in Marondera District, which it is expected to complete this year. The work is being done under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

The Chinese government has dispatched medical teams abroad since 1963, with the first having been sent to Algeria.

To date, Chinese medical teams comprising more than 20,000 personnel have been sent to five continents including Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Oceania to help people access to health services.

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