COMSATS in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (MoNHSR&C), Government of Pakistan, conducted a 5-day virtual training on Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health (SRH) for Telemedicine providers from 8th to 12th June 2020. The need for this training was realized as Telemedicine has become a significant means of health services provision due to closure of tertiary care OPDs, travel restrictions and lock down in various areas of Pakistan.
The training has been planned to be imparted to Telehealth professionals in two phases. In the first phase doctors from Telehealth centres of COMSATS, Sehat Kahani and Human Development Foundation (HDF) participated in the training. The first phase of training kick started with a brief introduction about the training by Dr. Azeema Fareed from COMSATS Telehealth program followed by remarks of Ms. Ellen Thom, Technical Officer, Reproductive Health at WHO Pakistan, who remarked that in the current challenging times, Telehealth can serve as an important means for provision of health services. Recognizing this exigency, she added, SRH training has been launched to equip the telemedicine providers with the better knowledge and understanding of the subject.
Dr. Qudsia Uzma, National Professional Officer, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at WHO guided the participants on the use of online pre-assessment test and evaluation applications for the training. The technical session for the first day was conducted by Dr. Samina Naeem Khalid, Associate Professor with Health Services Academy and Senior Consultant (SRH) at WHO Islamabad, in which she apprised the participants about the status of SRH in Pakistan and ante-natal care of the pregnant women was discussed in detail with emphasis on new trends and concepts.
The Second day of the training was conducted by Dr. Nusrat Shah, a well-known Gynecologist serving as Professor in Dow Medical College and Civil Hospital in Karachi. She focused her presentation on routine care in labour, delivery and immediate post-partum care as per guidelines provided by WHO.
During the Third day, Dr. Samina trained the participants on postpartum care as per official WHO guidelines specifically highlighting emergency situations where patients may need referral and post-partum depression. Dr. Sobia Khateeb, a clinical psychologist running Sobia Khateeb Foundation, shared some tips for effective stress management of the pregnant and post neonatal women especially in connection with the current COVID-19 crisis. Ms. Lubna Mir, health informatics expert and Assistant Professor at Computer Sciences department of Air University, Islamabad, shared the current Telemedicine applications available especially within Pakistan. Dr. Atiya Aabroo, Deputy Director (Programmes) at MoNHSR&C visited COMSATS Secretariat briefly during the session.
Fourth day of training was marked with extensive information presented by Dr. Nusrat Shah to all participants on family planning issues and methods along with post abortion care to be provided to the female patients. Dr. Nusrat also imparted knowledge on adolescent health and issues faced at the crucial adolescence age that sometimes leads to psychological and social issues.
The final day of the training was marked by presentation of Dr. Badar Munir, National Professional Officer at WHO Sub-Office Sindh who shared the good practices on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) as recommended by WHO and other preventive measures to be taken by the reproductive and maternal health professionals within the context of COVID-19. Later Dr. Qudsia Uzma gave orientation to the participants on SRH self-care interventions recommended by WHO and that can be advised by health professionals to the patients.
The last day was also marked with a brief closing ceremony which was graced by the presence of Dr. S.M. Junaid Zaidi, Executive Director COMSATS; Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO Country Representative in Pakistan; and Dr. Malik Muhammad Safi, Director General Health at MoNHSR&C.
Speaking on the occasion with the participants virtually present Dr. Zaidi established Telemedicine as the need of the hour and offered technological and internet services of COMSATS for its reinforcement in Pakistan. He greatly lauded the role of doctors and healthcare providers working on the frontlines in the current coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Palitha, in his remarks, considered the present training significant in underscoring the various aspects of maternal health and childcare which is being compromised due to COVID19 pandemic. While appreciating the increasing role of technology in current times, he regarded telemedicine the new normal.
Dr. Safi in his keynote address opined that telemedicine could help address the current gaps in the health systems which are currently under stress due to coronavirus pandemic. He appreciated COMSATS for providing healthcare services to marginalized communities through digital means for almost two decades now.
Dr. Atiya Aabroo, Ms. Ellen Thom, Dr. Sarah Zia, CEO of Sehat Kahani and Dr. Robina Shaheen, Program Manager Health at HDF also spoke on the occasion.
The training successfully provided the participants an opportunity to upgrade the knowledge and skills of the doctors who are providing maternal health services to the vast rural community throughout Pakistan. It allowed them to get informed about the new concepts, techniques in the SRH and a recap refresher of the older ones still in use. The training provided a whole package of care from prenatal period to post-natal care of the pregnant women along with the other aspects of women’s health on the whole. Although the training was provided through online link, but the participants found this mode of training equally effective. All technical sessions of the virtual training were duly supported by videos and interactive comments and question & answer sessions with the participants that helped build better communication and repo between the trainers and participants.