Worthing man who set up Virtual Doctors charity appeals for public support

The founder of a medical charity from Worthing is urging the public to support its urgent Covid 19 Response Fund.

Monday, 18th May 2020, 12:37 pm
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Huw Jones, 49, set up the Virtual Doctors, which has a base in the town, in 2009.

It enables NHS doctors in the UK to help sick patients abroad using a specially built smartphone app.

They offer advice to isolated health centres in rural Zambia and Malawi and help to diagnose conditions and offer treatment advice, assisting rural health workers to treat complicated cases where there is no doctor.

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Now Huw, who is Executive Director, says the charity needs crucial help to support the Zambian Ministry of Health.

At times, there is overwhelming demand for capacity to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in Zambia. The Virtual Doctors aims to raise the funds needed to equip the 140 isolated health centres for three months.

Helping them to treat more patients on-site prevents unnecessary referrals to distant and hard to reach hospitals.

Hospitals in the country can be very challenging for patients to reach and often very costly for them.

Huw said: “Virtual Doctors can play a key role in supporting the Ministry of Health’s response to this unprecedented crisis. We are perfectly positioned to recognise critical needs and ways in which we can provide immediate assistance. Timing is crucial.”

The telemedicine and e-learning techniques used by the Virtual Doctors team will help to support social distancing. It will also spread the message of the Zambian Ministry of Health Covid-19 guidelines by circulating knowledge remotely.

Working with the Ministry of Health as an official partner, the current focus for the Virtual Doctors is helping to supply water sanitation, hygiene equipment and basic PPE.

The aim is to help prevent health workers becoming infected and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the rural health centres where the Virtual Doctors operates its service in Zambia.

Huw said: “This intervention goes well beyond our normal service delivery of telemedicine and medical e-learning but it is vital to ensure that health workers are protected from Covid 19.”

Huw worked in rural Africa for many years from the late 1980s. He built up very strong relationships with the communities in which he worked and witnessed many of the challenges they faced, particularly access to primary health care.

He said: “I witnessed a lot of unnecessary mortality from very easily treatable conditions when if a doctor has been available the outcome could have been different. The final straw was witnessing two young women bleed to death trying to give birth within the space of two days in the same clinic.

“There was nothing telemedicine could have done to save them but certain events in our lives act as a catalyst to make us want to do something. In this case it was to address other life threatening health issues, and that experience was the catalyst for me.”

Virtual Doctors Chairman Graham Precey is asking the public to back the appeal.

He said: “Since 2010, we have been working with the Zambian Ministry of Health and more recently in Malawi. We need to work quickly and efficiently using our proven technology to help fight Covid 19.

“We hope many people will join us by contributing to our fund, set up with an initial £10,000 from our Board.”

To make a donation, simple go to www.cafdonate.cafonline.org/12801#!/DonationDetails. Or you can go to www.virtualdoctors.org/donate/#donate

Cheques can also be sent, made payable to The Virtual Doctors, to The Virtual Doctors, Sussex Innovation Centre, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9SB.

Suggested donations include: £30 for an information pack about spreading the disease; £100 for equipment to help diagnose the illness; £110 for a water sanitation and hygiene pack for one month. This includes a foot operated wash basin, hand soap, surface disinfectant, continuous spray bottle, cleaning rags and ten reusable face masks.

You can spread the message and share on social media by using #cleanwaterforclinics.

The Virtual Doctors relies 100 per cent on charitable donations to support its work. Find out more at Website: www.virtualdoctors.org. Follow on Twitter: @VirtualDocProj Facebook: @TheVirtualDoctors.