University’s vital training to address urgent need in southern Africa

25 May 2016

Phoenix project

The University is organising the first conference of its kind, offering important training for doctors and nurses from across southern Africa with the potential to save lives in the region.

Six senior anaesthetists from Wales will provide training and education in airway management for 60 doctors and nurses from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana, a vital skill in acute care.

The Namibian Airway Management Experience conference, which runs from 7-9 June in the Namibian capital Windhoek, is the first to be held in the region outside South Africa.

The training has been organised by the University’s Phoenix Project, an engagement project which works with the University of Namibia (UNAM) on a range of activities involving education, health and science.

Professor Judith Hall, Professor of Anaesthetics and Intensive Care at Cardiff University and project leader, said there was an urgent need for this type of training in southern Africa and it had the potential to save many lives.

“Patients die when their airways are not managed properly,” she said.

“When somebody is put to sleep by an anaesthetist, they need extra oxygen; unless you give them this by supporting the breathing, the patient’s brain becomes starved of oxygen and they can die. It can happen in as little as three minutes.

“Nobody should die because doctors cannot get sufficient oxygen into their patients. At the moment there is not enough expertise in this area.

“What an opportunity to take the best practice and share it with those less experienced. It’s also an opportunity to update the more experienced in latest techniques and ideas.”

Airway management is a vital skill for anaesthetists, who in the UK typically receive seven or eight years of specialist training. Many of the southern African doctors attending the conference are non-specialists and will only have had a few weeks or months of anaesthesia training.

Namibia, for example, has a desperate shortage of both qualified anaesthetists and critical care doctors - with only a handful for a geographically huge country of over two million people.

The anaesthetists from Wales, supported by Cardiff and Vale and Cwm Taf University Health Boards, will be joined by airway experts from Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia itself.

The conference, which will feature practical demonstrations, talks and case-based discussions, also has the backing of Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku.

The Phoenix Project is currently working very closely with UNAM to set up Namibia’s first post-graduate Masters course to address shortages in the number of qualified anaesthetists.

The Masters, four or five years in length, is due to start later this year.

The University’s Phoenix Project also works with Welsh Government and UNAM in a raft of other activities involving education, health and science.

Staff from the University’s three Colleges are directly involved, as are professional services staff in areas such as Libraries and Human Resources.

Other University staff will also travel to Namibia in late May and early June as part of the project. These include:

  • Grace Thomas, the University’s Professional Head of Midwifery and Lead Midwife for Education, and colleague Sarah Davies, both from the School of Healthcare Sciences, are carrying out midwifery simulation training.
  • Dr Mark Kelson, School of Medicine, is delivering statistics clinics for staff and postgraduate students and will also work with Dr Zoe Prytherch, School of Biosciences.
  • Dr Andrew Freedman, School of Medicine, is training in clinical bedside procedures at Rundu Hospital, and Professor Timothy Walsh, an expert in antimicrobial resistance, will be based in Oshakati to assess current needs.
  • Academics from Cardiff University are assessing UNAM’s requirements for modern languages and in social sciences.

The Phoenix Project is one of Cardiff University’s flagship engagement projects, otherwise known as the Transforming Communities programme, which work with communities in Cardiff, Wales and beyond in areas including health, education and wellbeing.