Class of 2012-2013
President Kagame and Bill Clinton, pose for a photo with Co-founder Partners in Health Dr Paul Farmer, Minister Dr Binagwaho, Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, and nursing students at the Rwamagana School of Nursing and Midwifery during the announce of Rwanda HRH Program. The New Times / Vil
It was an exciting opportunity since my co-fellow Nicole and I started our first Global Health Corps Fellowship with Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in July, to be a part of a new and pioneering program, Human Resources for Health. HRH, led by Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and supported by CHAI Rwanda, aims to address Rwanda’s skill shortage in dental services, nursing, and general medical services.
The agreement signed in Washington DC, on Saturday, 21 July 2012, just days after former US President Bill Clinton’s visit in Rwanda, announced the plan to have US universities partner with Rwanda as a way of addressing the lack of trained human resource in Rwanda’s health sector.
Each year, 100 members of the medical faculty from 13 famous American schools of medicine and nursing will be paired with their Rwandan counterparts to transfer training capacity.
“The program will provide the opportunity for 5,000 nurses to be upgraded to higher and professional training levels. More than 2,000 of them will be trained in specialties, like oncology and pediatrics. E-learning strategies will be used to grade the skills of a major portion of your nurses,” Clinton explained.
About three years ago, the Rwandan government asked President Clinton to assist with building a sustainable world-class health system that can be run without a single cent of foreign assistance.
Following the request, Clinton approached a number of leading medical and nursing schools – on behalf of the Rwandan government – for a long term commitment and a commitment at a lower cost.
“We explained how it is a big job and that it would never get funded if we have the traditional overhead system and the response was overwhelmingly impressive.
“Thirteen universities agreed to participate and waive the 25 per cent or 30 per cent overhead cost that they would normally get for doing this kind of work and contract directly with the Government of Rwanda and commit themselves to operate this program at an administrative cost of 7 per cent. This is unheard of anywhere in the world,” Clinton said.
“This would be the largest medical education project ever undertaken with foreign assistance and it’s for the first time many universities are going to be working together, under the leadership of the government where they are working.
To implement this plan the Government of Rwanda had to convince donors, especially the US Government to support the plan, he added.
“They actually offered to give up and redirect the funding so that the money can be used to develop resources that the future of Rwanda requires. I have to say I am very grateful to the US Government, especially the State Department, USAID and the Global Fund,” he said.
Clinton also recognized the United States Center for Disease Control for their support to the health education program in Rwanda. He noted that students, nurses, and doctors will participate and “be part of a story that is for them and for the Americans.”
“In seven years they will create the first world-class health system in Africa and built on terms that will make them hold it together and keep making it better in the future.”
He added, “By the end of the program, you will have permanent relations with these universities on equal terms working together and you will establish a whole new model of how finances will be spent in the future – a future in which we want broadly shared prosperity in the world without wasting one single dollar of the donor taxpayer money which should be spent to empower the countries where the money is supposed to be directed.”
“I believe Rwanda will succeed and when you do, in the next seven years, you will be running a health system without foreign assistance and everybody will be copying what you do and how it is done,” he said.
Early on, President Kagame thanked Clinton for being his personal friend and a friend of Rwanda.
“I want to thank the President for his contribution to the construction efforts of our country in the areas of health, agriculture, education, and many other areas,” President Kagame said.
Health minister Dr. Agnes Binagwaho said the health of the Rwandan people is critical for the nation’s development and that the country will do anything to help improve healthcare access.
“Two years ago we started to reflect on how we can improve human resources to deal with emerging new disease. Bill Clinton is helping us in educating more professionals,” she observed.
A well-educated nursing workforce is critical to meet these challenges, and HRH will yield nurses capable of providing excellent patient and community education.