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  • Students during practical training - Aga Khan Health Services, Tanzania.
    AKHS
Aga Khan Health Services
Aga Khan Health Services, Tanzania certified as an American Heart Association International Training Centre

The Aga Khan Health Services, Tanzania (AKHST) has been certified as an American Heart Association (AHA) International Training Centre (ITC) -- the highest status a training centre can obtain and an upgrade from last year’s achievement of becoming an American Heart Association (AHA) Training Site.

There are only two institutions in East Africa, both in Tanzania, to have been certified as an International Training Centre this year.  This will allow AKHST to train lifesaving skills and establish international training sites that reach out to a larger population. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating.

Dr. Sherin A. Kassamali, Head of Accident & Emergency, Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam, said, “Sudden Cardiac arrest can occur anywhere, at any time, to anyone. According to the American Heart Association, about 90 percent of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die in the USA. CPR, especially if administered immediately after cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

“Amongst health care workers in Tanzania, knowledge and skills of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is still low and inconsistent. As these skills are not routinely taught in all medical and nursing schools, are not mandatory and if not practiced regularly these skills can be forgotten.  A recent study done by Dr Kaihula et al at a tertiary public university hospital in Tanzania showed that ‘The level of knowledge and skills of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is still poor with median scores of less than 50% among health care providers from different cadres and departments despite having reported that they have performed CPR in the past’. This shows the need of having training centres with short courses available on a regular basis that can train such lifesaving skills to health care providers and to the general population.

“Knowing what to do and how to do so correctly is half the battle. The other is to have the infrastructure and systems in place, availability of equipment and expertise, accessibility to health care facilities that can support patients after sustaining a cardiac arrest, timely cardiac catheterisation, Intensive Care Units for continued treatment and monitoring to improve outcome and increase chances of survival to discharge from the hospital.

“At the Aga Khan Hospital, we are lucky to have such infrastructures in place and integration in the links of survival: Monitoring for Early detection, Code blue teams for CPR, accessible crash carts with defibrillators, cardiac catheterisation laboratory, Intensive care Unit, and experts in the fields for treatment and support to help improve with chances of survival.”

Last year, eleven AKHST staff had undergone certification to become AHA Basic Life Support (BLS), Heart Saver and First Aid Instructors. BLS is taught to health care providers, which consists of recognising cardiac arrest, good quality chest compressions, assisted breathing and using an Automated Electronic Defibrillator (AED). The Heart Saver and First Aid Courses can be taken by anyone in the community wanting to learn the basics of saving a life and what to do during an emergency.

This year seven of those trainers have been certified to become Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Paediatrics Advanced Life Support (PALS) instructors. The advanced courses are two days each and are for health care providers that builds on and integrates Basic Life Support with the more advanced Interventions.

The Training Centre has already taught more than 450 doctors, nurses, health attendant’s, porters, surgical, pharmacy and dental technicians, police officers, primary and secondary school teachers, even security guards the basics of saving a life. Close to one hundred Intensive Care Unit, Emergency, Paediatric and Medicine doctors and nurses have already taken the two intensive advanced courses.

The Training Centre's goal is to spread these lifesaving skills beyond the AKHST system and throughout East Africa to improve survival in the entire region.

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Presentation by Dr. Sherin Kassamali at the Launch Ceremony - Aga Khan Health Services, Tanzania.