Supporting family medicine

Family doctors are critical to Zimbabwe’s health system but, until now, there has been no specific training programme for doctors who want to develop a career in family medicine. ZHTS is helping to change that.

In Zimbabwe most doctors work as generalists either in the public sector or private practice. Those working for government, municipalities and mission hospitals support nurses who provide primary health care while dealing with more complex cases themselves. Such doctors are frequently largely unsupported, but have to deal with a wide range of challenging medical and surgical problems. In a typical day these doctors may carry out ward rounds, see patients referred by nurses, and deal with common emergencies such as fractures, obstructed labour (when caesarian section is necessary) and teach nurses.  In private practice generalists provide continuing primary care to a group of people, but may also care for in-patients and perform surgical procedures.

Despite the wide range of skills expected of generalists and their importance in Zimbabwe’s health system, until now there has been no specific training programme for doctors who want to develop a career in family medicine.

Since 2012, ZHTS has been supporting the College of Primary Care Physicians of Zimbabwe (CPCPZ) in its efforts to win official recognition of family medicine as a medical specialty in its own right, and to establish a postgraduate Masters programme within the University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Sciences and the National University of Science and Technology, NUST.

The first group of doctors will enter the four-year family medicine programme in 2017. In 2016, ZHTS is supporting the training of trainers, and plans to provide a variety of support, including doctors to help with the teaching of specific modules, distance learning materials and web-based mentorship from UK-based GPs.