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Luangwa Safari Association Medical Fund

Advertised on Behalf of the Luangwa Safari Association:

NEEDED:    DOCTOR FOR A 3-6 MONTH PLACEMENT IN SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK, ZAMBIA

 

Luangwa Safaris Association (made up of people from the safari camps and lodges in South Luangwa National Park) funds a doctor in the Luangwa Valley to care for their staff and clients. We are far from a major hospital in case of emergency for members of staff or guests and so formed the medical fund to pay for doctors to come and work in the Luangwa Valley. Our doctors not only look after the medical needs of guests and staff but also work as consultants at our local rural health centre which is extremely under resourced.

Indeed, most of the doctor's time is donated to the Kakumbi Rural Health Centre in Mfuwe near the main entrance to the national park. At the clinic the doctor works as a consultant to the staff nurses seeing patients with a wide variety of health problems ranging from malaria to AIDS to trauma to obstetric issues. When a client or a camp staff requires attention the doctor goes to the lodge in question fitting these visits around work at the clinic unless the camp patient is urgently ill. The doctor is on call 24 hours a day for the lodges, but the lodges are careful to only call outside working hours if there is a dire emergency. The doctor is NOT on call for the local clinic (otherwise they would never get any sleep!), but inevitably the doctors do occasionally go into the clinic after hours for life threatening illnesses or injuries the nurses can’t manage alone.

The ideal doctor for this position is a GP/family physician or emergency medicine physician with broad clinical training and experience in caring for patients of all ages. Knowledge of tropical medicine is essential, and prior medical work in the tropics or a course in tropical medicine is encouraged but not required. To enjoy the work here, the doctor should be comfortable practicing alone in a remote setting with a limited array of medications and equipment.

The LSA Medical Fund requires a minimum 3 month commitment for doctors who don’t already have a Zambian medical license because of the great expense involved in obtaining the temporary Zambian medical license and in paying for transportation from overseas. The maximum commitment is 6 months since work visas for longer terms are difficult to obtain.

The LSA doctor works with the full permission of the local health board and has to apply for a temporary medical license from the Medical Council of Zambia, a very time consuming and rigorous process. The temporary license is granted on the condition that the doctor donates his or her time to helping at the Kakumbi clinic. This arrangement suits everyone as the main motivation for most of our volunteer doctors is to work in tropical medicine in a developing country.

Kakumbi Rural Health Center (KRHC) is a very basic first line government clinic with staff currently including 3 nurses, 2 nurse midwives and 2 pharmacy technicians/translators. The clinic’s monthly government supply of medications is quite limited. However, because of the LSA scheme it is now the only rural health centre in the country with a doctor and has a better supply of drugs than some district hospitals.

The clinic’s lab is extremely limited with only government supplied rapid diagnostic tests for malaria and HIV. The clinic has a microscope and slides, but no stains for malaria smears or other tests. The LSA doctor’s kit does have a functioning glucometer for select use, and many doctors have brought their own supply of urine dipsticks to use judiciously. A new fetoscope has recently been donated to the clinic, but no ultrasound or other imaging is available. Following the recent refurbishments, the clinic can take a few in-patients for close monitoring or IM or IV medications, but serious cases are referred to Kamoto Hospital where one doctor and clinical officers can usually provide x-ray, ultrasound, basic lab (AFB, RPR, CBC, UA and CD4 counts), blood products and basic surgeries.

The clinic covers a local population growing rapidly due to the increasing employment associated with tourism in the area. There are no official figures that reflect this reality, but we guess that we are covering a population of around 20,000 now. Clinic patient volume has increased as the word is out that there is a doctor and drugs at the clinic which seems to draw people from far and wide! Before the doctors started to work at Kakumbi RHC, the clinic was seeing around 500 patients a month. The number is now around 2000 and rising.

The government supplies each health centre with a monthly kit of basic drugs based on the WHO Essential drug list for first line health centres in Zambia. This supply of drugs is often not adequate to supply the clinic’s needs, but fortunately donated drugs have often been available to help with the short fall in quantity and breadth of medications. In order not to deplete the clinic’s supply further, the LSAMF buys a separate, broader set of drugs and supplies for the doctor’s medical kit for emergencies and guest/staff consultations.

The work at the clinic can be challenging and frustrating at times. However, most of the LSA doctors say they find the clinic work the most rewarding aspect of the job. The clinic is open Monday through Friday and Saturday morning, but since the doctors are volunteers, the schedule is flexible if a break from the clinic is needed.

The LSA Medical Fund offers a unique opportunity to be involved in front line medicine in a rural part of Africa - something many doctors find very stimulating- while at the same time providing a reasonable level of accommodation and support. The presence of the staff and guests of the safari lodges even gives an "instant" social life.

Most doctors are also delighted with such easy access to one of the most beautiful national parks in Africa and with living surrounded by the park’s fascinating wild animals. The doctor can feel free to jump on a game drive when he/she needs a break, and many of the safari camps offer the chance for a night or two stay when they have openings.

This project has been running for over 11 years and continues to evolve. We have managed to find donations to have a borehole put in at the clinic so the nurses have fresh running tap water. We help sponsor a drama group to supplement the TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS education programmes already in place, and we have recently built extra housing for the clinic staff to improve their standard of living. In 2007, the clinic was completely remodeled and refurbished by Drs Johnny and Grant with money they raised themselves and also with help for the Zambia National AIDS Network.

Since the project funding comes from donations by the lodges to keep the scheme running, we are not able to pay huge salaries, but we do cover most expenses. Most doctors have found that the environment and the experience make it more than worthwhile.

The role is for a SINGLE person - accommodation and funding do not allow for couples unfortunately:

The financial details for the position are as follows:

  • USD 1200 for travel expenses for doctors based overseas
  • USD 500 per month expenses
  • Fees for temporary Zambian medical license paid
  • Entry visa and temporary work permit fees paid
  • Accommodation at one of the safari camps and food provided (Accommodation is simple but include bed with mosquito net, flush toilet and shower. Daily laundry and house cleaning is also included)
  • 4 WD vehicle and fuel are provided for Medical Fund use. The vehicle may be used for local personal visits but the Doctor would be expected to provide fuel.  

Please contact kapani@normancarrsafaris.com  if you are interested.

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