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GURRMS18 conference a massive success in Portree

Last week we highlighted the programme for the GURRMS (Glasgow University Remote & Rural Medicine Society) conference in Portree.  Over 80 students and delegates attended this event last weekend, and as expected, it was a superbly positive event that covered many aspects of rural practice in Scotland and beyond.

James McHugh, GURRMS President

It must be highlighted once again, that tickets for this event sold out within 15 minutes of becoming available online.  Behind the conference was a ton of work, ably overseen by GURRMS President and final year Glasgow medical student, James McHugh – who compered the activities along with his committee with aplomb, tight organisation and enthusiasm.

A good line up of varied speakers featured on the first day of the conference.  Dr Emma Watson opened the conference, and after this I gave a presentation on ‘Rural GP – Is it What It’s Cracked Up to Be’ – with an honest portrayal of opportunities and challenges that exist within a career of rural practice.  I used some of my own stories to highlight the privilege that many of us feel in being able to provide primary care (along with all the additional services of rural practice) to our communities, along with the breadth of practice that keeps days interesting, challenging and demanding of effective teamwork.  We touched upon some of the current challenges of getting health policy adequately rural-proofed, and reflected that this is a worldwide challenge – which makes for truly international career opportunities.

This was followed by Dr Luke Regan talking about ‘Why I Love My Job and You Should Too’ – he is an Emergency Physician at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness with experience of delivering rural emergency care both in Scotland and Australia. His talk included a simulated walk-through of a rural cardiac emergency, ably assisted by student ‘volunteers’ from the audience.

Prof Phil Wilson explored the research and academic opportunities available to rural GPs, and considered the ethical obligation on us all to appraise and share lessons learned from service and therapeutic innovations.

Phil Wilson on Scottish trials to use transcranial ultrasound to diagnose thrombolysable stroke

Dr Jacqueline Bennebroek then offered an insight into her work as a Rural Practitioner at the MacKinnon Memorial Hospital in Broadford, Skye.

Jacqueline on her role as a Rural Practitioner on Skye

Ben Price on the role of BASICS Scotland and emergency responders across rural Scotland.

Workshops were run on ‘The Lesser Spotted BASICS Responder’ by Dr Ben Price, and a Training Perspective of Rural Practice by Dr Ian Pooleman and Dr Ailsa Leslie.  Three well-delivered presentations in Pecha Kucha style featured from Duncan Stewart, Isla Kempe and Ellen Gardner on their student experiences, from elective placements to reflections on being a student on the new Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship now offered to Dundee 4th year students. The verdict – a big dose of reassurance that LICs offer a fantastic environment for learning medicine, and the fears about having gaps in knowledge did not materialise.  Indeed this has been shown in repeated reviews of LIC learning that students conclude their LIC placements with greater knowledge, insight and propensity to pass exams.

Rural surgical legend Dr David Sedgwick talked about his Life and Work as a Rural Surgeon over 25 years – most of which was at the Belford Hospital in Fort William.  The fact that David had just arrived back from teaching in Rwanda the previous day was particularly impressive, and highlighted again the role that rural doctors and surgeons can have in global healthcare.

Prof Sarah Strasser during one of the student workshops

The keynote talk ‘Rural Health Worldwide’ was delivered by rural health stalwarts Prof Roger Strasser and Prof Sarah Strasser.  They had travelled into Scotland the previous day, covering even more impressive mileage than David Sedgwick… it is perhaps testament to the GURRMS committee that they facilitated such experienced input, and that Roger and Sarah were willing to travel from Canada and Australia respectively to make it to Portree.  Their talk was followed by a particularly engaging question and answer session, and it was clear that delegates were inspired and enthused by the perspectives that Roger and Sarah brought to the conference.

10 Skills of a Rural Doctor – from talk by Roger and Sarah Strasser

The day concluded with an evening reception including ceilidh.  The next day GURRMS successfully ferried delegates across north west Scotland – with some walking in nearby scenery, some opting for whisky tasting, some going for mountain rescue training and some travelling to the Western Isles for a 2 day trip to see the hospital in Stornoway and the surrounding area.

Well done once again to the GURRMS Committee for a well-organised, good-natured and inspiring conference.  We hope to see plans develop for GURRMS19 next year – and we hope that the Scottish rural GP community will support the event once again.

More photos below…

 

 

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Mayara Floss: the challenges for women working in rural health

Mayara Floss

This video of Dr Mayara Floss – rural doctor in Brazil and passionate advocate for international rural health – has recently been publicised via the Rural WONCA email list by Dr John Wynn Jones, chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Health.

Mayara was invited to give her perspective on the issue of “Investing in rural health workers for the economic participation and empowerment of rural women and girls” at a meeting of the joint Commission on the Status of Women: a side-event of the World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations and Women in Global Health.

John introduced the video more eloquently than I could, and so with his permission, here’s what he said:

Dear All

I want to congratulate Mayara and thank her on behalf of Rural Wonca and all the rural health workers around the world for her presentation and wise words at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Mayara is an exceptional person. I can’t even call her a future leader because despite the fact that this is her first year as a doctor she is already a world leader and an example to us all. It will be the Mayara’s of this world who will take up the mantle for the next generation and its our duty to support them.

Please look at the video of her session. She describes how medical schools in the largely rural country of Brazil do little to promote and teach rural health care. She eloquently describes her own journey against the odds and her quest to work among rural communities and the barriers that she encountered. Everyone needs to watch her presentation! 

During the panel session she implores us first to listen to our patients and are communities before coming up with ” so called helpfull solutions”.

She also asks us to think about the political tragedy that is happening in Brazil and the dismantling of one of the most enlightened primary care systems in the world and its replacement with private health.

We are all very proud of her and the many other members of Rural Seeds who are working so hard around the world to build their careers and make a difference for rural communities.

Kind regards

John

Mayara speaks in the video below for 20 minutes, at 30 minutes in, and there are subsequent (excellent!) contributions to the discussion thereafter.

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Call for new Rural WONCA Committee Members

Rural Wonca is calling for nominees for the Rural WONCA (Working Party on Rural Practice) Council 2018.  

Council is meeting at the 15th Wonca World Rural Health Conference in New Delhi in April.

Rural Wonca is this year seeking especially candidates from the following categories:

  • Young doctors
  • Female
  • Developing countries
  • Student
  • Indigenous

Other existing criteria include that would be considered favourably include:

  • Underrepresented region
  • Underrepresented country
  • World recognised authority
  • Nationally recognised
  • Practicing rural doctor

All candidates will be considered. Rural Nurses and other health professionals will be considered.  The positions are not representative of any organisation.

It is expected that successful candidates will bring to Council a passion for rural practice and rural communities.

The closing date for applications will be  COB UTC 16th March 2018.

The candidates will need to:

  • Submit a completed application (attached) +/- CV and
  • Submit a video (no more than 5 minutes) outlining why they should be considered for Council. ( A google drive link will be provided on receipt of application).

Please submit applications to

Bruce Chater – email bruce.chater [at] theodoremedical.com.au

Rural Wonca look forward to hearing from you.

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The Belford: an example of great quality rural healthcare

Dr Patrick Byrne, consultant at the Belford Hospital in Fort William, was involved in hosting a visit from a delegation from the Philipines.  This article featured in Lochaber Life Magazine earlier this month.  It has been reproduced here with the kind permission of Iain Ferguson of the Write Image (picture credits to Iain too).

PHILIPPINE VISITORS TO BELFORD

Dr Patrick Byrne

The Belford Hospital continues to punch above its weight on the national and international stage, welcoming a delegation from the Philippines a few weeks ago.  The visit was part of a week-long study tour to the UK by Presidents and delegates from the Philippine Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, Paediatricians and Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, alongside officials from the Philippine Ministry of Health.

Teaching & training for most healthcare providers in the Philippines tends to be concentrated in the largest hospitals in cities, ignoring the district and rural locations.  This is in contrast to the UK where every hospital has a role to play and sometimes the best experiences and training is to be found in the smallest facilities, where one-to-one supervision from consultant teachers is often the norm, not the exception.  The purpose of their study tour was to learn from UK practices, specifically how supporting and investing in rural hospitals leads to a more efficient healthcare system across the region, and the country.

Led by the immediate Past President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Mr Ian Ritchie (who has family ties to Corpach), the delegates specifically requested to see an example of good training in a small hospital of approximately 100 beds.  Mr Ritchie replied, “I can bring you to a 34-bed hospital where training and patient care is not just good, but excellent”.  The importance of this visit, was underlined by the presence of the most senior NHSH personnel – Prof Elaine Mead (Chief Executive Officer), Mrs Gill McVicar MBE (Director of Operations) and Dr Emma Watson (Director of Medical Education).

Each, in turn, reiterated the importance of consultant-led services and training at Belford Hospital, both now and going forward. However, it was Miss Alison Bradley, a former Belford trainee, now a senior surgical registrar in Glasgow, who captivated and inspired everybody, proving that rurality is no impediment to ambition; quite the opposite, in fact, as she explained the details of her PhD research into pancreatic cancer.

Mr Ritchie said, “It was very clear to all who visited that numbers of beds is not an indicator of good training, it is that key relationship between a trainer and a trainee which, in Fort William, you all demonstrate to a very high degree.  The high point was certainly the Belford.”  In her letter of thanks, on behalf of the College of Paediatrics, Dr Cynthia Daniel echoed this, adding “I am certain with you and the rest who share the same passion for training and service, Belford Hospital should be safe for the next 150 years and beyond”.

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Prof Paul Worley – Rural Health Commissioner for Australia

In a really interesting development for rural health internationally, Australia has appointed its first Rural Health Commissioner.

Charged with the responsibility of overseeing and driving a wide range of activities around supporting ‘rural generalism’ the post offers a chance to provide more co-ordinated leadership across domains, regions and disciplines to make rural health strategy more cohesive in Australia.

Professor Paul Worley has been appointed as the first Rural Health Commissioner and this move has been widely welcomed across the rural health community.  He brings an impressive portfolio of experience to the post, including in clinical, academic, educational and strategic development aspects of rural health.  You can watch Dr David Gillespie MP announce the post, and Prof Worley outline some of his visions for the future (at 5min 55s), in the video below.

Twitter and other social networks – including the WONCA Working Party on Rural Health international email list – have been buzzing with positivity about the new post, and it is likely that this approach might pave the way for similar developments in other countries.

In Scotland, we are watching developments with interest.  Rural medicine and health services are of significant importance in Scotland’s National Health Service – 98% of Scotland’s land mass is rural, and 18% of Scotland’s population live in a rural area, with many more flocking to rural areas during holidays.  And yet despite considerable aspects of medical care being delivered by GPs and primary care teams, within community hospitals, A&E units and facilities outwith the usual remit of GPs, there continues to be relatively little in the way of co-ordinated clinical governance and strategic unity to link rural and isolated practitioners together.  These services provided by rural GPs remain considered to be on the ‘fringes’ of general medical practice.  Therefore the opportunities created by appointing an experienced individual to provide leadership, stimulate innovation and inspire positive approaches, are sorely needed in areas other than Australia.

Having met Paul at the WONCA World Rural Health conference in Cairns this year, I’m delighted to hear this news and inspired to think that this is a situation to watch closely.  I have little doubt that we will be reflecting that Scotland could benefit from a similar approach in the near future.

Well done Australia, and all the folks involved in making this happen.  These are exciting times.

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STI Management: Syndromic vs. Laboratory-based Approach

Clinical considerations and ethical deliberations from a rural Caribbean clinic

Dr Josie Reynolds recently contacted RuralGP.com to offer to write about her experiences and observations from rural Jamaica.  We’re delighted to feature the first of these articles here…

As doctors, we are most comfortable with our diagnoses when we have investigative results to confirm them. This is especially true for those trained in high-income countries, as more and more sophisticated laboratory tests and imaging have become part of everyday practice.

But in rural, remote settings, particularly those of low and middle income countries, the practicality and cost of diagnostic testing can become a barrier to treatment. This barrier is intensified in the management of sexually transmitted infections by the taboo and stigma that surround these conditions.

Because of this it has been argued that a syndromic approach to STI management can be more appropriate to tackle the burden of disease. Syndromic management of STIs works by grouping symptoms and signs of disease into syndromes and treating based on the most common causative pathogen(s), e.g. vaginal discharge syndrome, lower abdominal pain and male urethritis syndrome.

This practical approach in the most resource poor environments can help to tackle high burden of disease, therefore reducing significant morbidity, infertility and increasing spread of infection. In these settings there is a strong argument for forgoing the lab tests and treating empirically.

But what about those settings that fall somewhere in the middle?

At what point is it more appropriate to treat following laboratory testing?

Are there any markers that indicate the tip of balance in favour of a laboratory-based approach?

 

Picture a rural Caribbean health clinic. The mountainous community can seem remote based on the terrible conditions of the roads, but in fact as the crow flies there is only 10 miles to the capital city. There is also fairly regular transport by bus to the city Mon – Sat, and a public run clinic in town which provides free STI testing and treatment (all be it slow).

Community members, however, have very little disposable income and primarily lead subsistence lifestyles. With this in mind, working as a primary care physician at the clinic, I was not keen to send people away without treatment in case they did not go to get testing & treatment and the infection continued to spread. Syndromic management, therefore, seemed the way to go…

But the more I thought about syndromic management – STI management without any laboratory testing – the more negative implications I could think of:

  • Contact tracing – this is still possible, but do you treat all sexual contacts even if symptom free? This could expose numerous people to the risk of unnecessary medications when there is no guarantee that they have the disease.
  • Missing concomitant STIs e.g. HIV – it’s not uncommon for STIs to come in pairs and symptoms are frequently vague or non-existent. Treating syndromically without testing misses the opportunity to pick up some of the more serious infections that may be present simultaneously.
  • Contributing to antibiotic resistance – as one of the biggest threats to modern medicine, antibiotic resistance cannot be ignored. Whilst syndromic management may be the pragmatic approach, the greater picture needs to be considered.
  • Relaxed approach – could syndromic management give patients the impression that STIs are not very serious as no testing is required? Could this apparently relaxed approach translate into less incentive to prevent reinfection?
  • The subtle symptoms – for the barn-door cases, where signs & symptoms are clear and fit neatly into the box, this approach is straight-forward. But what about the grey areas? Or the patients which don’t follow the usual pattern?
  • Impact on doctor-patient relationship – with a less evidence-based approach and therefore greater risk of treatment failure, is there a danger of loss of trust or breakdown of relationship between the healthcare provider and patient?
  • Reliable statistics – guidelines for syndromic management often mention adding in treatment for certain infections, e.g. gonorrhoea, if there are high levels in the region. However, in low-middle income settings, the epidemiological data is less likely to be complete and therefore recorded levels may be misleading.

 

I found myself in a struggling health system, but provisions were not non-existent – should I accept the flaws of the approach and treat syndromically or encourage patients to overcome the barriers and receive a better standard of care overall?

I realised too that part of my reserve for syndromic management linked into a deeper notion: by accepting syndromic management as routine are we reinforcing the idea that disadvantaged people deserve second rate healthcare?

Or perhaps my scientific-based training was blinding me to the benefits of syndromic management? Was my personal desire to get to the bottom of the cause preventing me from putting the important things first?

Either way, it appears to me that a more sophisticated set of guidelines is required from the Global Health Sector to reflect the variations in development of health systems worldwide, rather than a binary choice which may work for some, but not for all.

What do you think? What would you do in a similar situation? Which factors would tip the balance in your decision?

References:

http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/82207/1/WHO_RHR_13.02_eng.pdf

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/sti-its/cgsti-ldcits/section-4-1-eng.php

http://sti.bmj.com/content/80/5/333

http://applications.emro.who.int/aiecf/web79.pdf

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPRH/Resources/STINoteFINAL26Feb08.pdf

http://hetv.org/resources/reproductive-health/rtis_gep/syndromic_mngt.htm

https://www.idealclinic.org.za/docs/National-Priority-Health-Conditions/Sexually%20Transmitted%20Infections_%20Management%20Guidelines%202015.pdf

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-3156.1999.00360.x/full

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2014/103452/

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RRH Guide to Getting your work Published

One of the sessions at #ruralwonca was delivered by some of the team at the Journal for Remote & Rural Health.  I was really sorry to miss it, due to presenting in another session, but my tweeted request to make the advice available online was answered quickly and the presentation is now available – see below.

The journal team are keen to encourage and motivate rural healthcare professionals to share their research, and seem genuinely interested in helping budding writers to put pen-to-paper or finger-to-keyboard.

There is a lot of great innovation and problem-solving going on in rural practice.  Rural healthcare professionals tend to know their communities well, are used to dealing with limited resources, and some of the best examples of teamwork are to be found in rural settings.  However ‘being academic does not come easy to everyone, and the process of writing up evaluation and research can sometimes feel tedious and time-consuming.

However, it is now easier than ever to find interested journals, and there seems to be a drive to make the steps to getting work published more accessible.

Watch the presentation below for the RRH team’s top tips on getting your research out to a wider audience.  You can find the guidelines for authors available here.

Also, on the theme of research, here’s a great project that aims to enable rural doctors to develop their research activity through pragmatic and direct support.  Delivered by the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University in Newfoundland, it’s called the ‘6 for 6’ programme.  Click here for more details or watch the video below.

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AProf Bruce Chater on Dr MacLeod and #ruralwonca

Today RuralGP.com highlighted the tribute speech given by Associate Prof Bruce Chater to the life and work of Dr John MacLeod of Lochmaddy in Scotland.

I was delighted to catch up with Prof Chater after his speech, to ask him more about Dr MacLeod’s work with Rural WONCA, how the WONCA Working Party for Rural Practice is progressing, and also for some advice to younger rural doctors on how to effect change in their own communities.

You can listen to the recording below…

 

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Protective personality traits for LICs

Assoc Professor Diann Eley

Today I attended a session at #ruralwonca which was delivered by Associate Professor Diann Eley from the University of Queensland on the role of personality traits on student experience of Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships.

Diann has gained considerable experience in this area, and specifically on how best to support and mentor students effectively whilst encouraging them to reflect on their own personalities – and how that impacts on their clinical decision-making.

I was delighted that Diann gave me a few minutes of her time after her presentation to discuss this in more detail, particularly as this work is highly relevant to the development of LICs in Scotland.

You can listen to our discussion here:

 

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