2007 – Introduction of Laparoscopic Surgery

During our longstanding partnership with the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was invited to assist with the introduction of laparoscopic surgery as a new health service for Tanzania.  This project led to the development of a global first- a technological breakthrough (low cost internet based surgical Telementoring).

In 2007 Colin Dobbyne (Chairman of OR Networks) joined the Northumbria team on their annual visit to KCMC to establish an audio visual link between Moshi, Tanzania and Hexham general hospital in rural Northumberland.

Brenda Longstaff (Head of International Partnerships) negotiated with the Tanzanian telecommunications company to secure some free preferential bandwidth allowance, allowing the signal to be sent using the internet. A cost effective solution to an otherwise expensive problem.

Once we had the means to send the signal we required the equipment as connecting the two countries is no small feat. To ensure the infrastructure matched the needs of the hospital, roads were raised, copper wiring replaced and a touch of ingenuity was required from Colin Dobbyne to transform the audio visual link from theory to reality.

Using a network of overland and under the sea cables, a satellite connection from 22,000 miles high and a fibre optic cable from London to Northumberland the two way link opened up a whole new area of teaching opportunities, surgeons at KCMC could complete complex laparoscopic procedures with the guidance of staff at Hexham general watching over the monitor giving both instruction and advice as operations actually took place.

KCMC essentially now provides the only structured laparoscopic training in Tanzania, running a national course which has been held each year since 2008. Over the years new procedures have been introduced and keyhole techniques are now routinely used for diagnostic and biopsy, improving health outcomes for hundreds of patients. By the end of 2017 KCMC had successfully completed more than 1000 laparoscopic procedures.