KARACHI: EDUCAST, a Saudi-Pakistani virtual training and education platform based in Karachi, is set to train more than 1,500 Afghan doctors under its eDoctors program through financial support of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the EDUCAST CEO said on Thursday.
EDUCAST, a joint venture between overseas Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, was established in 2016 under patronage of Prince Miteb bin Thunayan and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Miteb.
The Saudi-Pakistani platform through its eDoctors program currently provides tele-health services in Pakistan and Yemen. The program was initiated in 2019 to bring back female doctors who had abandoned the profession due to various reasons, including marriages, with most of them having moved out of Pakistan.
For Afghanistan operation, the IsDB has approved $180,000 under its technical assistance grant for setting up innovative online health education centers and second-opinion services to Afghan doctors by international experts.
“EDUCAST has been awarded Grant Assistance from IsDB for carrying out Afghanistan Medical Education uplift program and online specialist opinion services to the Afghan doctors in six Afghan provinces,” Abdullah Butt, founder and CEO of EDUCAST, told Arab News on Thursday.
Butt informed that after a successful pilot project six months back, the platform was now ready to start its full-fledged operation in Afghanistan.
“Starting from the current month, we will set up tele-health education and clinical support facilities in six regional hospitals in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar[i-Sharif] and Khost,” he said.
The fund provided by the Jeddah-based IsDB will be utilized to enhance capacity of up to 1,500 Afghan doctors by delivering online training, certification and enabling doctor-to-doctor online consultation.
The platform and the lender are expecting that the program will benefit thousands of patients.
“The online training program will be followed by in-person training for one or two months in Pakistan’s hospitals in Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad in key health-related areas of high demand, including maternal and neonatal child health, infectious and non-communicable diseases,” Butt said.
Under the program, senior healthcare consultants from around the globe will deliver on capacity development of Afghan doctors by conducting virtual seminars. The six regional centers in Afghanistan will also serve in running a basic second opinion from Pakistani health specialists and Afghan doctors abroad, according to Butt.
Pakistani doctors, trained under the eDoctor program and currently living in Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar, will be offering their services.
Since 2019, the tele-health platform has enabled around 1,200 doctors to join its network with the support of IsDB. These eDoctors have provided healthcare and counseling to over 4.4 million patients in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh during the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration with the Sindh health department and the Dow University of Health Sciences.
Butt said EDUCAST, for the last one year, has been operating with Shefajo Hospital in Kabul to provide tele-health and online education services to citizens of the Afghan capital.
“In the IsDB-funded project, the possibility of the provision of healthcare services in Afghanistan was identified as a solution to the adverse impacts of economic and political instability, after the withdrawal of international donor agencies from Afghanistan,” he added.
Afghanistan, since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, has been facing lack of operational standards and clinical service quality decline, due to less experienced healthcare management and fewer experienced medical practitioners.
The Afghan doctors currently practicing in the war-torn country lack continuous medical education (CME) training in their relevant fields, which impacts the quality of services being offered, according to the EDUCAST founder.
“The medical universities in Afghanistan do not offer CME-related programs, so establishing tele-medicine and e-health as national platforms has been suggested to improve overall healthcare service delivery,” Butt said.
The Saudi-Pakistani tele-health platform is also active in Yemen and providing services to women and children through online doctors sitting in various countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.