Access to care

Healthcare for all in a remote Angolan province

 Access to modern diagnostic imaging and treatments 

Elio Stamm
Published on 13. Februar 2023

With the opening of a new public hospital, modern diagnostic imaging and treatments are now being carried out in the Angolan exclave of Cabinda. People in need no longer have to travel long distances to receive help.

The inauguration of the General Hospital of Cabinda on 21 April 2022 was a special occasion for Cabinda Province. With fully equipped operating suites, emergency rooms, a maternity ward, 200 beds and, among other modern imaging devices, the latest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diagnostics, the hospital offers healthcare services that were not previously available in the exclave of less than one million inhabitants, which is separated from the rest of Angola by a strip of foreign land belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
For minor problems, the exclave’s residents previously had the option of visiting the provincial hospital, but for more complex medical services, they had to turn to hospitals in Congo that were poorly equipped for these medical conditions. This was not only expensive and tedious, but potentially life-threatening in emergencies.
Built in a very short space of time, the state-of-the-art hospital in Cabinda is part of a large-scale government initiative to improve public health. Angola is the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, but a large part of the population lives in poverty. Few have access to basic healthcare: a major problem in a country where malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS are widespread. Since 2017, the Minister of Health, Silvia Lutucuta MD, a cardiologist, has been trying to change this – with considerable success.
Cardiologist Silvia Lutucuta MD, Angola’s minister of health, has been focused on providing healthcare for all since October 2017.
Minister of Health Angola
Some 25,000 new jobs have been created in the public health sector, mainly in rural areas. In the Angolan elections held in summer 2022, the government was reelected. This gives Lutucuta the opportunity to press ahead with the expansion of primary healthcare.
However, the situation in Cabinda was more complicated than in other rural areas of Angola. The province is difficult to reach. This means, for instance, that liquid helium, which is essential for the operation of MRI, cannot be easily imported in the required quantities. So the natural choice was a scanner that requires almost no helium and features a technology that monitors and maintains the helium inventory throughout its lifecycle.
Celestine Delgado, MD, a specialist in radiology and head of imaging at two hospitals in the capital Luanda, has been advising the Ministry of Health throughout the project.
Dr. Delgado_Radiologist
He considers remote scanning to be of vital importance for hospitals in rural areas. It means that Delgado or other experienced radiologists can log in from other parts of the country at any time and support the team on site wherever they need support.
<p>Thanks to the new hospital – which is freely accessible to all people, rich or poor – diseases can now be diagnosed and treated at earlier stages in the exclave of Cabinda and is already receiving patients outside. Take, for example, the case of a patient with a suspected stroke. The modern, high-resolution MRI facilitated a diagnosis of cavernoma, and a stroke was ruled out. Without reliable imaging, this would not have been possible.</p>

By Elio Stamm
Elio Stamm worked as a newspaper editor in Switzerland before spending six years as a freelancer in Ghana creating video, photography and written content for international organizations and publications including Neue Zürcher Zeitung. He recently moved to Ankara, Turkey.