Touch’s Treat & Train Network of hospitals and educational institutions began with external clinical rotations and has evolved into a key component of our approach.
Treat & Train began as an initiative to improve medical education by connecting hospitals so medical students could gain valuable experience in smaller external rotations while also helping to provide better care to patients in under-resourced health facilities.
After external rotations proved a successful model for improving education, we realized the value in creating connectivity among health institutions that previously operated singularly. We have continued to develop this integrated Treat & Train Network of healthcare and educational institutions and this ‘network’ concept shapes all of our programming. By strengthening hospitals within the Treat & Train Network, scarce resources are shared and maximized, and we are able to achieve systems-level improvements.
Touch’s Treat & Train Network includes facilities at different levels of care.
In Tanzania, health facilities are organized into different levels, ranging from village dispensaries, which provide very basic health services, to regional and district hospitals, which provide more comprehensive care, and all the way up to referral hospitals, which provide highly specialized care. Village dispensaries are more accessible to people in rural Tanzania but often must refer patients to higher-level facilities for actual diagnosis or treatment. Referral hospitals provide advanced treatment and surgeries for large populations. Bugando Medical Centre is a referral hospital and Touch’s flagship partner. It serves a region of 17 million people.
Touch works with the Network institutions to strengthen key elements of the health system, including health worker training and patient care.
We believe that creating a network of integrated healthcare and educational institutions is an essential element in our health system strengthening work.
While a number of disconnected initiatives can improve quality of and access to care, we find that by fostering a network of institutions, we are able to scale improvements in not only healthcare worker training, but also areas such as infrastructure, supply chain, and patient transport and referral.
Referral and healthcare worker placement are two key areas of impact within a network model. If patients requiring more routine or basic care are treated at lower-level facilities and specialized treatment is more appropriately coordinated at higher-level facilities, strain on the system is relieved and patients receive better care.
We prepare local partners to assume management responsibility and simultaneously work to expand partnerships with new healthcare facilities and extend the Treat & Train Network into more communities.
Our comprehensive approach ensures that the essential elements of a well-functioning health system are in place at each of the Treat & Train Network facilities:
Filling gaps in the healthcare workforce
Among our healthcare worker training initiatives, Touch facilitates external clinical rotations for Bugando students. Accompanied by Bugando faculty, students train at Treat & Train’s smaller hospitals and gain valuable hands-on patient experience. These participating Treat & Train hospitals are short-staffed, so the presence of Bugando students and faculty also provides patients with much needed care. Read more about our healthcare worker training.
Building the fundamentals of a healthcare facility
Inadequate infrastructure for safe water, power, and basic amenities means that patients often do not receive the quality care they need. For example, although Bugando serves a population of over 17 million people, it lacked a functioning waste incinerator and its mortuary was overburdened. By investing in the construction of a new mortuary complex and medical waste incinerator, we created a safer environment for healthcare workers, patients, and the surrounding community. Additional infrastructural investments across the Treat & Train Network include water filters, power generators, laundry equipment, laboratories, C-section theatres, and labor and delivery wards.
Leveraging technology to optimize service delivery
Touch conducts engineering department assessments, develops organizational structures, and updates repair and maintenance processes so that health facilities can extend the longevity of their technology and equipment.
We also invest in healthcare technology such as a picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), which allows Treat & Train hospitals to capture, store, view, and share medical images. This is especially important for rural patients who would otherwise travel long distances to see radiologists at referral hospitals.
Securing essential medical supplies
Appropriate medical equipment is frequently unavailable or not in working order in Tanzania. Medical equipment that is available is often designed for developed countries, limiting the lifespan and reliability of the devices when things like power surges and power outages are common and biomedical engineers are limited.
Improving healthcare management and leadership
Our ultimate goal is to transition program management to local ownership. To do so, we provide hospital leadership with opportunities for continued professional development. Our workshops have included training hospital managers on the topics of operations, human resources, financial management, quality assurance, and safety.