FEARS that Tanzanian medical staff, coming to work side-by-side with doctors at Hereford County Hospital, would not be granted visas, have been allayed with the first two visitors arriving this month.
Despite concerns over tightening immigration law, two nurses and two doctors will visit the hospital over the next two months as part of an exchange project with Muheza Hospital.
In many ways the hospitals are worlds apart.
Rose Samzugi, one of the nurses who recently arrived in Hereford, describes how patients in Tnazania travel miles across tough terrain to receive treatment for simple conditions like asthma.
The ongoing exchange gives the Tanzanian staff the opportunity to learn new skills, in some cases working for the first time with pieces of advanced diagnosis equipment.
And working alongside their African counterparts provides Hereford doctors with an insight into healthcare abroad, and a better understanding of diseases and conditions that are rare in the UK.
Elly Ecroyd, paediatric staff nurse at Wye Valley NHS Trust, said: “The visiting nurses will learn invaluable clinical techniques that will save lives and transform patient care where they work in Africa.”
The relationship with Muheza hospital – located on in the north-east of the country – began 30 years ago, and link opens the door for Hereford staff to volunteer in Tanzania.
However Dr John Wood, chairman of the Hereford – Muheza Link Society, said that immigration laws for those coming from outside the EU have made it tougher in recent years to secure visas for nurses and clerical staff looking to come over and learn.
While the charity helps fund the project, often visa regulations rely on the visitor providing proof that they have enough money to fund their return home.
One of the poorest nations on earth, Tanzanian’s doctors went on strike two years ago to try and raise their salary from around £370.
And with wages for nurses falling off from there, it has often been hard for Muheza staff to meet that qualification.
Dr Wood said: “This year all four of our hoped-for guests to the hospital got visas.
“But I don't know whether the "Rules" have been softened, we were just lucky, or whether the visitors have found effective ways of meeting the existing rules.”
Along with Ms Samzugi, fellow nurse Andrew Kalimbe has arrived and both will spend four weeks on County’s hospital wards.
In September two doctors will take their place.
Mr Kalimbe said: I’m fortunate to have this experience to learn how to perform electrocardiograms (ECGs) and interpret results for patients with heart problems.
“This will help to save lives in Muheza because I will be the only nurse trained in this procedure”.
To find out more about the charity, donating items, and volunteering opportunities visit www.wyevalley.nhs.uk