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South Africa is hailed as a global-leader in trauma care training

By ATA International Training Division, 16.02.12 | Comments

Medical professionals from Africa, the Middle East and Europe are travelling to South Africa to gain comprehensive ‘hands-on’ trauma care training.

19 May, 2011: South Africa has become internationally-recognised as a world-leader in providing emergency and trauma care training to doctors, nurses and paramedics - thanks to an unrivalled training programme available at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg.

A significant number of medical professionals from Africa, the Middle East and Europe are queuing up to be trained by leading trauma care and critical surgery specialist, Professor Ken Boffard, who is head of department of surgery at the hospital, and also the first African professor to be elected president of the International Society for Surgery (ISS).

Boffard points out that the number of foreign practitioners requesting to be trained in South Africa has significantly-increased over the past few years. “The Charlotte Maxeke Trauma Unit is among the best in the world, and is operated by a number of top surgeons, who have extensive experience in trauma-related procedures. This particular unit is also the oldest trauma unit in the world, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so experience is unrivalled in every aspect.”

What’s more, Boffard notes that South Africa is the only country in the world that offers formal sub-specialty training in trauma and trauma critical care. “A successful training programme requires material to train on, well-developed treatment protocols and excellent teachers. The Charlotte Maxeke Trauma Unit is the only one in the world that offers all three, and that is what sets us apart from every other training facility.”

Boffard points out that the majority of trainees are employed by large corporations, and are often stationed in isolated and off-shore locations, far away from any medical facilities. “The trainees who come to the hospital have generally not been exposed to trauma situations for a while, and they undertake the training in order to improve their proficiency in trauma emergencies,” he notes. “They want to get their hands dirty under supervision, and they are guaranteed to be exposed to an extensive variety of trauma-related conditions in this unit.”

The courses available to trainees range from one week to one month in duration, many of which are organised by leading health and safety expert, Action Training Academy, through its International Training Division (ATA ITD), which also organises full accommodation, transport, cost-of-living expenses and registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa - if trainees stay in the country for longer than one week.

ATA ITD director Trevor Justus points out that the problem with being remotely-located is that these professionals are not receiving practical experience in their qualified fields. “These courses are designed to improve their proficiency in the management of medical, cardiac, surgical and trauma emergencies. What’s more, trainees are also given the opportunity to work with the emergency teams on the road, and in communities, in addition to receiving training in the trauma unit.”

Boffard adds that the process of registering foreign doctors to train in South Africa is a time-consuming challenge. “ATA ITD manages all registration requirements, travel and accommodation of the trainees coming to South Africa, which allows us to focus an increased amount of essential time and resources on the medical aspects of the training courses.”

Justus notes that ATA ITD is able to meet any client requirements. “The process involved in registering a foreign medic to practise medicine in South Africa is long and complicated and, as a result, ATA ITD is one of a few  training providers that offers this unique service,” he adds. “A client will provide exact specifications, and we will be able to custom-design a course to meet those needs, no matter what they are.”

Boffard notes that trainees who come to South Africa for less than two weeks only work as observers, while those staying longer are allowed to participate in the treatment and management of trauma patients, under strict supervision. “We only allow trainees to operate independently after they have been here for more than a month, and when we are satisfied that their surgery is as competent as our own. What we teach them is simple expertise that can be applied anywhere,” he explains. “When they leave, they take the experience, expertise and protocols that allow them to better manage and care for trauma patients in resource-restricted environments.”

Boffard points out that the international training programme provides inexperienced doctors with value-added trauma care experience that can be applied in their own countries, while bolstering South Africa’s reputation as a world-leader in trauma care. “The reward of working in this field in South Africa is that trainees receive far more experience than in any other country,” he explains.

Although the Charlotte Maxeke Trauma Unit is internationally-recognised as being world-class, Boffard does admit that the hospital faces a number of challenges. “An ageing infrastructure combined with budget cuts and shortages of equipment can at times severely restrict productivity.”

He does; however, note that the income generated through the training programme raises essential funds which allow local medical interns working at the hospital to undertake an advanced trauma life support course, and also to pay for the broadband service run by the department that gives all doctors working at the hospital access to the internet.

“Despite these challenges, South Africa is still far better resourced than the countries where most trainees come from, and the care and training provided by the Charlotte Maxeke Trauma Unit consistently surpasses that of most units in the world,” Boffard concludes. 

About The Author:
ATA’s International Training Division (ITD) specialises in emergency medicine, occupational medicine, occupational hygiene, technical rescue, industrial fire-fighting, health and safety training courses for professionals operating in remote and isolated environments (e.g. oil and gas, mining, infrastructure and construction).

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