NUST opens Stroke Unit at Mpilo Central Hospital

A STROKE Unit for specialised care of stroke patients was opened yesterday at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo in response to an alarming mortality rate in the country.

The unit which is an initiative of the Partnership in Education Training and Research Advancement (PETRA), a consortium involving four Zimbabwean universities collaborating with two American universities, is already admitting patients.

The local universities involved are the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) College of Health Sciences, National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Faculty of Medicine, Midlands State University (MSU) Faculty of Medicine and Africa University (AU) Department of Health Sciences.

The two American universities are University of Colorado Denver and Stanford University.

The main thrust of the consortium is to answer the World Health Organisation (WHO) call to improve health care in all populations through research and education.

Speaking on the sidelines of the unit’s launch, PETRA co-ordinator and Bulawayo physician, Dr Rudo Gwini said they were prompted to set up the Stroke Unit in Bulawayo following a 36 percent stroke mortality rate. She however, could not provide the exact statistics, which she described as shocking.

“We are launching a Stroke Unit at Mpilo under the auspices of Petra, a consortium involving all health institutions in the country that have to deal with the training of health professionals. We realised that the mortality for stroke at Mpilo was high at 36 percent with most of the patients admitted there dying,” she said.

“We therefore want to reduce that mortality through providing specialised care for the patients hence the opening of this unit.”

Dr Gwini said the University of Colorado Denver and Stanford University are assisting with resources and expertise.

“The two American universities have helped us with resources for the stroke unit and they are also helping in putting up the protocols that we are going to use.

“They have advanced stroke units and we are simply adapting their protocols and tailor making them to suit our own limited resources,” she said.

Dr Gwini said the stroke unit will also help them gather data from the industry because there is a lot of salt added in some of the foods people consume.

The two universities will help in terms of testing given that they have advanced stroke units,” she said.

Dr Gwini said plans to launch specialised training in stroke management are underway.

“We are also looking at having cadres who will be specifically trained to look after stroke patients. The unit will improve service delivery as it will bring together different disciplines to take care of the patient.

The good part of it is that we will not require a lot of expensive equipment. We may need support in terms of the actual physical space where our patients would be admitted so that we can be able to take care of them,” she said.

The Stroke Unit at Mpilo is the second one after a similar one was set up at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.

Another stroke unit is set to be launched at MSU.

Dr Gwini said their aim is to open stroke units in other parts of Matabeleland region

She said people who are at high risk of suffering stroke include those who are hypertensive and those with heart ailments and HIV-related diseases.

“There are quite a number of risk factors that we have observed and hypertension is the major cause of stroke in our population largely because Zimbabweans consume a lot of salt. Most of the people’s high blood pressures are not controlled,” she said.

“The burden of HIV and cardiac diseases also contribute to a lot of strokes. We are also having a challenge with obesity and it is important for people to control their eating habits. We have noted that young people below the age of 50 are actually getting affected by stroke and dying and that is worrying.”

Dr Gwini said It is important for people to know their blood pressure.

“In May we will be going out to measure the blood pressure, which is called May month measurement to help us establish the exact problem of high blood pressure in Bulawayo. People who are hypertensive should make sure they take their medications and patients with diabetes should make sure their blood sugar levels are controlled,” she said.

“Let us desist from just adding salt. Those that smoke we encourage them to stop so that we reduce the chances of getting strokes.”

Dr Gwini said they will also engage social workers to help them in terms of handling stroke patients once they are discharged.

“We decided to come together as a consortium instead of having to go individually to assist the patients.

We want uniformity in the manner in which we deal with stroke patients rather than a piece meal approach,” she said.

Mpilo acting CEP Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the hospital will start with four patients as they require intensive care to prevent complications such as choking or developing bed sores.

“At most, a stroke unit is about six beds. The key is to reduce mortality of stroke patients,” he said. – Chronicle.

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