The Joint Project was also the initiator of the tri-annual HELINA conferences on Health Informatics in Africa and the HELINA-L mailing list on the same topic.
The Joint Project has decided to expand the existing HIS to other essential areas within the hospital - laboratory, drug information service, pharmacy, outpatient appointments - as well as to support Primary Health Care management on the local/district level. The aim is to develop a comprehensive package which can be distributed to other hospitals as well. Nigeria has more than 100 million inhabitants and more than 20 teaching and specialist hospitals, but the OAUTHC is the only one to have a clinically inclined hospital information system. The National Health Plan envisages that the majority of the teaching and specialist hospitals should have a computer-based HIS by the year 2001.
The OAU Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering has established a Health Informatics Group, currently embracing about ten staff members and graduate students, to conduct research & development in this field. It is apparently the largest and strongest such centre in any Sub-Saharan African university excluding South Africa. Kuopio has jointly networked with other African health informatics actors, and was granted a modest research grant by the Academy of Finland.
The systems development personnel of the OAU Health Informatics Group and the OAUTHC are badly in need of in-depth training in the VA technology - FileMan, Kernel, M programming - and the VA applications, to the extent that the latter can be used as prototypes for made-in-Nigeria applications. Since we have had no external funding so far, with the exception of my original doctoral research grant, we have had much too little time for technical training. Now the Health Informatics Group is organising a self-help training workshop on the basics of FileMan and M programming. With the new modest grant I can visit Ile-Ife in May for 2-3 weeks and spend part of the time in extended FileMan/M training. However, I have no experience on the DHCP/VISTA applications packages and I have no prior experience in teaching FileMan/M programming (doing it by myself, yes, training, not).
1. Is it possible to think about having an experienced FileMan/Kernel/ M/VISTA trainer from the USA to come to Nigeria for 1-2 weeks for extensive training for the Health Informatics Group? For instance, Hellevi Ruonamaa has praised the tutorials both of you have given during the MTA conferences ... The joint project can offer modest accommodation, transportation and other services within Nigeria, a lot of hospitality for sure, probably at least part of the flight ticket, but no salary (monthly salary of a university lecturer in Nigeria is around US$ 50 to 100 - which may not attract Americans).
2. If not, the next best alternative is to send one person from Ife to the USA for some closely guided training in advanced FileMan and a selection of DHCP/VISTA applications. I know that this is the way the National Cancer Institute, Cairo, had a quick start when they developed their own VA-based hospital information system. Do you think this would be possible, and if so, who might be willing to consider the training task? The OAUTHC can possibly fund one person's flight ticket and modest subsistence in the USA.
3. In the long term, there is a need to have one or a few volunteer advisors at the VA who can occasionally reply to questions about the VA software. For instance, in 1989 it took us some time to understand what the "10-10" referred to in the ADT documentation might stand for ... Do you think it would be possible to find such person(s), and if so, whom should we contact?