April is Maternal Health and Child Care Month

The Sebastopol Rotary Club takes Telemedicine to outlying areas of Nigeria.

The Sebastopol Rotary Club takes Telemedicine to outlying areas of Nigeria.

On a visit to southern Nigeria last October, Dr. James K. Gude of Sebastopol, Calif., and Mikel Cook of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise learned how hard it can be to bring medical care to rural areas.

“We drove 20 or 30 miles from the Federal Medical Centre of Yenagoa to a satellite hospital, and it took an hour,” recalls Gude, an honorary Rotarian who is medical director of Sebastopol-based telemedicine services company OffSiteCare. “Big chunks of the road were flooded, and there were people all over the place; we were going through villages and trying not to hit anybody.”

That laborious journey illustrated the reason for their visit – to help make health care available to people in isolated areas. In rural portions of Nigeria, a country with only one physician for every 2,500 people, many Nigerians seeking health services have to make trips much more arduous than the drive Cook and Gude undertook. The result, of course, is that a great many people simply don’t receive care. While it would be ideal to get more doctors in remote regions, that would take years.

Gude and the Sebastopol Sunrise Rotarians are part of a larger effort to bring technology to bear on the problem, using telemedicine – the use of information technology to provide health care from a distance – to bring doctors to patients virtually. And thanks to a global grant from The Rotary Foundation, a team of health care professionals from Nigeria has been trained in telemedicine.

Excerpt from www.rotary.org 4-3-17