First Minister Rhodri Morgan today (Friday 29 June) said that people in Wales and in developing countries can benefit by health workers forming partnerships to learn from each other. Building links with a partner country or community provides numerous benefits for Welsh staff as well as helping to address the urgent needs of developing countries for more, properly trained health workers and better health services, he said.
The First Minister’s comments were made as he joined health professionals from the NHS in Wales, Universities and African Health Care organisations at the NHS Links Wales for Africa conference in Cardiff which aims to explore the ways in which the Welsh NHS and academic institutions in Wales can encourage and build links with African communities.
The First Minister said:
Wales has built strong links over the last 20 years with Lesotho and has forged strong links with communities and institutions in Uganda, Ethiopia and Somaliland, as well as elsewhere in Africa.
A link with a partner country or community can be mutually beneficial. The Dolen Cymru-Lesotho link, the Southern Ethiopia Gwent Health link and the work of the Partnerships Overseas Networking Trust (PONT) in Mbale, Uganda are all fine examples of how links can grow and evolve into sustainable partnerships.
All of these Links and several more will be running practical workshops at the conference, on such themes as how to start a Link, how to use inforamtion technology to support a Link and how to evaluate the impact of a Link.
The First Minister said:
The decision to get involved with a link can be inspiring and a life changing experience. Seeing how health care is delivered in other cultural settings with different and fewer resources can be a particularly enriching experience.
Dr Tony Jewell, Wales’ Chief Medical Officer said:
Our relationships with sub-Saharan Africa are about helping each other. These links have been established on the basis of sustainable development and responding to the needs of Africa, rather than just giving it what Wales can provide, regardless of need.
Dr Yifru Behan, Dean of the medical faculty at Hwassa University in Ethiopia said:
The contribution of the Southern Ethiopia Gwent health link in the last 8 years to the region has been multifaceted. It has helped with essential medical equipment, medical textbooks and other training materials to six SNNPR public hospitals and Hawassa University hospital. It has also introduced and supported series of pre-service and in-service training for health officers, mid-wives/ nurses, medical doctors and medical laboratory technicians.
Like many of my colleagues in Hwassa, I hope that we would continue to work hand in hand to make a difference in the health care of our society and build up long lasting friendship.
Prince Seeiso B Seeiso, High Commissioner for Lesotho, which has an established link with Dolen Cymru added:
The last 22 years have enabled many thousands of people in both Wales and Lesotho to learn from one another through wide-ranging links.
Health links have been a crucial part of the relationship from the outset and continue to provide a meaningful opportunity for people to share experiences and learn important lessons.
The link has helped to develop confidence where that was lacking; bring knowledge where that was inadequate and develop understanding where that was ill-informed. In a country such as Lesotho where migration of many key personnel to other regions is a daily phenomenon, Dolen has brought, and can continue to bring, considerable benefits to those communities.
Dr Jewell added:
Wales is a small country, but globalisation is increasingly affecting all of us. Many health threats do not recognise borders and we need to respond to them together. Our main asset is people – the staff who have the skills, experience and enthusiasm that we value in the NHS.
• The Welsh Assembly Government makes available £50,000 every year to support NHS Wales institutions and academic partners to develop and nurture long lasting partnerships with organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• The Assembly Government launched its Wales for Africa Framework in October 2006. The Framework recommends that the public sector in Wales should be better supported to create more formal links with counterparts in developing countries that are Millennium Development Goal (eight targets to reduce global poverty by 2015) focussed. The framework highlights the importance of continuing to support and develop new links with NHS Wales and projects in Sub Saharan African countries.
• Sir Nigel Crisp, an ex Chief Executive of the NHS, was asked by Tony Blair last year to report on what the NHS could do to support efforts at improving global health. His report, “Global Partnerships for Health” (or “the Crisp Report”) was launched in February this year and made many recommendations for UK Governments about effective partnership working, especially through NHS Links with partner organisations in developing countries. The NHS in Wales is in a strong position to respond because of its Framework for Africa and the existence of several strong NHS Links already.
• Other speakers at the event will include: Welshman Eldryd Parry (founder of the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), HRH Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, High Commissioner for Lesotho and Dr Yifru Berhan, Dean of Hwassa Medical College, Ethiopia, the Chief Executive of THET, and Professor Tomlinson CBE, Provost at Cardiff University.
Friday 29 June 2007