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Africa Health conference unearths the continent’s next medical masterminds

Supplied image.

Supplied image.

Published Oct 21, 2023

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Johannesburg - “The need for quality and accessible healthcare for all and investing in human capital as part of the process to ensure everyone has access to quality healthcare” was the key message at this year's Africa Health Congress at the Gallagher Convention Centre this week.

Thought leaders from a vast array of sub disciplines within the medical and healthcare fields shared, thoughtful and informative addresses, a variety of the most pressing topics facing healthcare today.

This was the second in-person congress since the pandemic caused all events to be held virtually. Spokesperson for the organising team, Dr Bandile Hadebe, said they had taken learnings from the pandemic years and incorporated digital elements into their offerings, enhancing ease of registration and participation.

“Gatherings are an important part of all African culture, and this year we’ve truly seen the immense value of an inclusive space that brings the members of the continent’s healthcare world together for truly meaningful and deeply personal engagement,” he said.

The Corpuls CPR device has a battery life of 180 minutes and is often used by hospital staff during code blue situations to help resuscitate a patient. The device can also be used while medical teams place stents in patients. Picture: Supplied.

Visitors perused the offerings of some 500 trade and industry partner exhibitions. More than 10 000 delegates, representing 55 countries, poured into the event, eager to network and participate in the highly anticipated CPD-accredited 2023 Conference Tracks - the true meat and bones of Africa Health Congress.

Day One saw several sessions at the Public Health, Medical Obstetrics, and Nursing conferences, as well as the first of the two-day Imaging and Diagnostics track. The MedLab event kicked off with the Laboratory Management Conference, which provided attendees with a valuable, high-level overview of some of the most urgent issues that Africa’s medical laboratories are currently grappling with.

A spokesperson for Allegers, Abhishek Mittal, explained the significance of attending an event such as Africa Health for his company.

“Africa is a large portion of the Allegers’ market so it is critical to engage in monumental health conferences in Africa such as Africa Health.”

The CEO of PMB Health and Safety Services, Bruce Manuel, said they were attending in order to identify channel partners to export into Africa.

Because life is too short to wear boring scrubs, two sisters, Dr Lehlogonolo Phala-Mkhwanazi (right), and Moshibudi have come up with a bright and fashionable range that can be used by hospital staff but also by many other organisations. Supplied image.

“We’re here for grand exposure. It’s been three years of building and now we’re announcing ourselves to the market, it’s our first Africa Health conference. It’s been a great experience,” he said.

Day two saw fruitful discussions take place at the Imaging and Diagnostics, Decontamination and Sterilisation, and Emergency Medicine, building on conversations central to these fields that the congress has sustained over many years since its inception. Topics covered ranged from financing and procurement concerns, to the WHO’s Technology Access Pool (TAP), even extending to more radical subjects, such as the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Extended Reality (XR) in BM, CE and HTA.

Day two of the 2023 Congress cemented Africa Health’s position at the vanguard of innovation in the healthcare, laboratory medicine, and health technology spaces. Now in its thirteenth year, the Congress draws together anyone who works in the various aspects of healthcare and medical products from across the continent and from other countries.

A key motivation for Africa Health throughout its 13 years of existence has been to drive innovation in healthcare. This year, a contest was held which invited startups to submit their medical concepts and service delivery ideas for consideration. Ten finalists were chosen to present their entries to judges at the congress, and the winner was announced on day three. Market MX won a 6 month incubation with Standard Bank Business Enterprise, an exclusive interview with Omni health insights, a complimentary exhibition stand next year at Africa Health 2024, and an opportunity for the winner and runners up to pitch at new venture partners.

Some of the fascinating medical gadgets included a mechanical Corpuls CPR device with its slogan “I am no hero, it’s my job”. Spokesperson for the Medicare Hospital Equipment group, Jean Baptiste said the device has been in use around the world for nine years and is now available in SA. The Corpuls device became popular during covid when medical staff could not get too close to patients and is now also used in helicopters when transporting patients over long distances. It costs around R280 000, weighs 8 kgs and is produced in Germany.

Supplied image.

“The device is already in use at the South Rand Hospital. Halo Aviation uses it in their emergency flights. It is safe to use on children, adults and even pregnant women. It never takes leave, never gets tired and doesn’t belong to a union,” said Baptiste elaborating on the device’s uniqueness and work capabilities. Another hit at the conference was Dr Lehlogonolo Phala-Mkhwanazi and her ultra fashionable and colourful scrubs. Sabafuraha, which means ‘seven joys’ in Kiswahili ’ was founded in 2017 by sisters Lehlogonolo and Moshibudi. The sisters said name came out of their desire to bring joy into the lives of others.

Phala-Mkhwanazi said when she’s not practising medicine, it’s all hands on deck at their scrubs business in Pretoria.

“I always say that life is too short to wear boring scrubs. A patient sees you as a person before anything else so you need to represent yourself as best you can. Our journey began with a heartfelt fundraising initiative to finance Moshibudi’s return plane ticket from her mission work in Tanzania, where she had been serving during our grandmother’s passing,” she said.

Another stand out name to look out for was Dr Cornelius Cano Ssemakalu who is working on a vaccine for the poultry industry. If all goes according to plan, Ssemakalu and his team will have the vaccine ready by 2027 at a cost of just 60c to farmers. And the best part is that the new vaccine will contain zero chemicals.

Dr Phumudzo Tshigabe from Made in Africa (MIA) and his Uber dental clinics are also sure to hit South Africa by storm.

The Saturday Star