Training on External Fixation for Orthopedic Clinical Officers in Malawi

Blantyre, Malawi ”“ To enhance patient care and address the critical need for orthopedic surgical resources, a group of dedicated orthopedic clinical officers (OCOs) from four district hospitals and one central hospital in Malawi has embarked on a rigorous training course focused on the application of external fixation techniques on open fractures of the tibia.

The training, held in Blantyre in May 2023, aimed to equip the OCOs with the necessary skills to stabilize broken leg bones using specialized devices. In a country where access to surgical facilities can be limited, the ability to apply external fixation is crucial to providing immediate and effective care to patients in need.

Led by Dr Leonard Banza and Maureen Sabawo, the course began with comprehensive theory lessons. The clinical officers eagerly absorbed the principles and techniques of external fixation, recognizing their potential to save lives, limbs, and prevent long-term disabilities.

“External fixation is a game-changer in our field,” remarked Banza. “By mastering these techniques, the clinical officers will be able to provide vital care to patients in even the most remote areas where surgical resources are scarce.”

The hands-on component of the training is set to commence next week, allowing the clinical officers to put their newfound knowledge into practice. They will be guided by experienced trauma and orthopedic surgeons along the way.
“It was a privilege to participate in the training and learn directly from skilled and experienced surgeons and OCOs. This will improve our delivery of care to our patients. We are thankful for this.” Smart Chigwenembe, Dowa District Hospital.

The successful completion of this training will not only improve the quality of care provided by these clinical officers but will also have a far-reaching impact on the communities they serve. It is expected to reduce patient referrals to distant hospitals and alleviate the burden on the already strained healthcare system.

“The experience has given us the confidence to manage open long bone fractures with much ease and skill. The support in terms of resources and training has boosted our morale, which was on the verge of collapse, having been neglected by the system for so long. We now have the ability, resources, and enough skills to manage at least some of the open fractures in our district hospitals. This will reduce unnecessary referrals, which were putting much toll on patients’ families and government financial resources,” said Laxcy Kapapa, Salima District Hospital.

The Ministry of Health in Malawi has shown its support for this initiative, recognizing the vital role that OCOs play in the healthcare system. By expanding their skill set, these officers will be better equipped to handle complex fractures and provide critical care to patients in need.

This training is provided in partnership with the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. It is also part of the Long Bone Fracture Program in Malawi. Custom external fixator kits were created for this program by Johnson & Johnson and will be distributed to the district hospitals taking part in the specialized training.