Merck Foundation Alumni inspired to establish public sector IVF clinics

ZIMBABWE’S health professionals that received fertility specialist training sponsored by MERCK Foundation are confident they can extend Invitro fertilisation (IVF) services in public health settings.
Following the training, the alumni are upbeat they can deliver such a service in public hospitals.
“Following this training, I have also started a clinic at a Government Hospital where I am working. Unfortunately we do not have many resources. Basically, its more of consultation. At my own private clinic I have started doing simple infertility treatments but I haven’t started doing IVF. Funds permitting I hope I will start IVF.
“The challenge we have is that most of our patients cannot afford the various tests that are required as part of evaluation of infertile couples. “Unfortunately, Government hospitals are not doing mostof the tests required so patients have to go to private laboratories and the costs there are prohibitive,” he said.
He revealed there are only two facilities offering IVF, one in Harare and another in Bulawayo.
“Like I already said, raising an upward of USD100 000 required to set up IVF clinic its a tall order for me. But Im hoping maybe if we get support from Government we will be able to set up an IVF clinic in Bulawayo,” said Dr Rambanepasi.

Gynaecologist Dr Harrison Rambanepasi is grateful for the chanceto train in fertility and other associated fields.

“The training was in India for three months. “I have also enrolled for a diploma in sexual and reproductive medicine with University of South Wales. It’s an online one year course fully funded by the Merck Foundation. “There is an option to do a Master’s degree. The training helps to enhance one’s understanding of infertility issuesand puts you in a better place to evaluate and treat patients having infertility problems,” he said.

Another beneficiary, an embryologist Brian Mudzanire said this program has also benefited him technically.

“Im currently offering definitive semen analysis for the diagnosis of male infertility at my institution. I am still hoping and planning to extend fertility services to a stage of affordability through government engagement. This will have an impact to the society since most services are affordable in public institutions compared to the private.
” Moreover, the society will benefit through breaking stigmatisation by making it possible for couples with fertility problems to have children which is something valuable in our society. We are not practising Invitro Fertilisation because we do not have the equipment,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa said her partnership with Merck Foundation has helped reshape the public healthcare sector in Zimbabwe through training and mentorship for media partners to improve their role in effective community awareness. In this difficult time of the third wave of coronavirus, she said it was critical to discuss the right strategy to address the global crisis and benefit from members’ training experience and many success stories.
“Ladies and gentlemen; especially during the Covid-19 global crisis and lockdown, we are interested more than ever in building healthcare capacity and training our localdoctors who are our first line defence and the heroes of our coronavirus battle.
“We were also interested more than ever to advance our media capacity through health training and mentorship programmes and awards to improve the awareness about Covid-19 and how to stay safe and healthy during our day to day life,” she said.

The First Lady said more than nine doctors had either graduated or enrolled in a Fertility and Embryology Training Programme in India, while over 20 doctors from different provinces in Zimbabwe were either undergoing or had been shortlisted for online one-year diploma in Sexual and Reproductive Medicines from South Wales, UK or Two-year Master’s Degree in the Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction and Embryology Valencia University, Spain.

“Together with Ministry of Health we will follow up to ensure they are making a good use of this great opportunity so that they can help women in general and infertile couples in particular, across the country. Also, we are transforming the diabetes care in our country. More than 55 scholarships of one-year diploma, two-yearmaster degree or master course have been provided to our doctors in the field of diabetes care.
“Furthermore, together we enrolled five doctors to One-Year Online Post Graduate Diploma in Endocrinologyand six doctors in one-year Preventive Cardiovascular Medicines Diploma from University of South Wales. Moreover, one doctor has been enrolled to One Year Fellowship in Surgical Oncology, in India, and will start as soon as the travel restrictions are lifted.”

Co-chairing the summit with Amai Mnangagwa, Senator Dr Kelej said their joint programmes sought to transform the patient care landscape in Zimbabwe through buildinghealthcare capacity and raising awareness about breaking infertility stigma and support girl education.
“By building professional healthcare capacity, we have been able to transform the landscape of patient care in Zimbabwe. This is a huge achievement.

“I am happy to meet (virtually) our alumni and discuss their impact on improving the quality of healthcare in the country after receiving specialised medical scholarships provided by Merck Foundation,” Dr Kelej said.

She said through her foundation’s partnership with Amai Mnangagwa, they had been able to reshape the landscape of Zimbabwe’s healthcare sector and empower healthcare providers and motivate them to provide better care to people, especially during this difficult time of Covid-19.

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