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Sudan launches the first telementoring programme to treat patients with COVID-19 at home

An initiative that deploys volunteer medical students in Sudan to treat COVID-19 patients in their homes will get a boost from a new partnership comprising several participants.

The existing Community Medical Response Team (CMRT) programme, set up during the height of COVID-19 in 2020, will use the ECHO telementoring model to connect medical students, graduates, and trainees with highly experienced providers and other experts in virtual learning communities that share the best practices and support for treating patients with COVID-19 in their homes. This will help reduce the virus’s toll on local communities while alleviating the pressure on hospitals and care centres struggling to deal with Sudan’s worsening crisis, which the Ministry of Health has described as “dire.”

The new partnership members include the Project ECHO, the global telementoring initiative based at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque; the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC); the Sudanese American Medical Association (SAMA) and Sudan NextGen (SNG), which are both parts of the Coalition of Sudanese Organizations against COVID-19 (the coalition); and the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Health (MoH).

Dr Fadul and other Sudanese physicians living overseas—including in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United States—began working with the coalition in 2020. The coalition’s efforts during the first wave of the pandemic covered everything from training healthcare providers on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to pregnancy care during the pandemic, as well as efforts to provide PPE and other medical supplies.

The second wave saw a major need for community interventions. Dr Fadul and her colleague Reem Ahmed, M.D., from Emory University, co-founded Sudan’s COVID-19 CMRT programme. Over the past four months, they have worked with other Sudanese physicians, including Mohamed Khogali, M.D., in Saudi Arabia, and trained more than 120 medical and healthcare students in over 50 Sudanese neighbourhoods to manage patients with COVID-19 in their homes.

The CMRT training focuses on the principles of home management for mild to moderate cases; home isolation and quarantine methods; and identifying life-threatening symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical schools in Sudan have been closed, so many students were just sitting at home,” said Dr Fadul. “They wanted to do something, but they didn’t know what to do or how to do it safely. In addition to the impact they’re having on patients, students benefit from pursuing their learning in a hands-on way. When they return to their classrooms, they will be better equipped to take on new challenges.”

The CMRT ECHO will build on these early efforts. During phase one of the roll-out, students will be able to join ECHO learning sessions at six sites throughout Sudan that have internet connectivity. Students unable to go to these sites can join the sessions through their smartphones and other personal digital devices.

Beyond the immediate response to COVID-19, phase two of the project will expand Project ECHO’s Sudan network and add needed programs to help revitalize the country’s healthcare system, including programs in healthcare safety and quality management, research monitoring and evaluation, reproductive health, midwifery, and cardiology.

Project ECHO, founded in 2003, uses videoconferencing technology in a collaborative model of education and care management that empowers learners to implement evidence-based safety and quality practices to improve care and outcomes.

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