Bridging the Gaps Medical School is worth its weight in gold for rural doctors

On March 23-24 and March 25-26, in Kakheti, Akhmeta district, Georgia, Bemoni Public Union held two-day trainings within the Bridging the Gaps medical school.

28 medical workers learned more about psychoactive substances and drug use, as well as human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS.

After the training, these topics became closer for many of us. We looked at the problems of our patients in a new way. My colleagues noted that the training helped to change their attitude towards drug users to a more tolerant one,” shared her impressions Mariam Samkharashvili, a training participant from the village of Matani.

Mariam says that the training was interesting and important for her because the government rarely cares about the professional development of rural doctors. The training helped her and her colleagues become more sensitive to vulnerable groups.

5,000 people live in my village, they are served by three doctors and three nurses. Our patients often do not have access to new information about services, programs, but new information is very important and necessary not only for them but also for us, including knowledge about drugs, HIV and hepatitis. Personally, I noticed that lately not only young people but also middle-aged people who use drugs, have a poor understanding of the risks of using drugs.

Trainings in Kakheti were held within the framework of the project “Bridging the Gaps: Health And Rights For Key Populations”. The participants are rural doctors from Duisi, Alvani, Matani, Khodasheni and other Kakhetian villages, as well as representatives of the local Akhmet Public health centre.

These trainings were useful and very lively. During four days, doctors from different villages came to training without delay. New information, that we learned there, was really like oxygen for us,” says another participant, an epidemiologist from Ahmeta Public Health Centre Shorena Kibrotsashvili.

First training was focused on psychoactive substances and addiction issues. The doctors and the organizers of the training discussed in detail what are drugs, psychotropic/psychoactive substances, abstinence symptoms, mental and physical addiction, the essence of addiction treatment.

The goal of the project is to identify what knowledge is lacking for solving problems in the future. Moreover, in Georgia, some doctors have negligent or unethical attitude, for example, to drug users, and they don’t even always know why and what services are vital for these people. Since our organization annually conducts various trainings and we conduct regular surveys, the needs of both our clients and the medical staff are identified.

Family doctor is the first link in the health care system to which the patient сomes. Therefore, the Bridging the Gaps Medical School focuses on family doctors. We are pleased that the trainings showed a positive tendency to change the attitude of medical staff towards drug users and their problems,” concludes Davit Kazaishvili, director of “Bemoni”.

Addressing of drug addiction as a chronic disease, closely related to mental health, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis, the training organizers are confident that these problems require special attention of health workers, both in big cities and in the villages.

Davit Gongadze from the Kakhetian office of “Bemoni”, said that the team of  Akhmet Medical Centre helped conduct the training: “We are pleased to cooperate and work together on many topics. Trainings were very interactive. Medical staff was actively involved in all sorts of exercises, which demonstrated their interest in this topic.”

The second thematic training “Human Rights in the Context of HIV/AIDS” was very much focused on the with the classification of rights. Special emphasis was done on the right to health, Georgian legislation in this regard, issues of confidentiality, access to information and provision of information to minor patients, HIV infection, the rights of HIV-positive people, etc.

Training participants recognized that stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs and other f vulnerable groups create a number of barriers in accessing health services: complicate early detection and timely treatment, makes patients reluctant to seek treatment and contributes to their marginalization and social exclusion.

Post-training evaluation demonstrated that the level of knowledge of doctors increased by 37%.

The training was led by expert Tamar Sirbiladze. It should be noted that a new methodology developed by Tamar – “Guidelines for HIV prevention among spouses and sexual partners of drug users” was added to the existing training methodology, of the Medical School.

We think that this methodology should be included in the curriculum for the Medical Department of Telavi State University,” says Davit Kazaishvili.

As part of the Medical School in June, trainings will be held in Kvareli district, and in autumn 2019 – in Telavi. In 2018, three trainings were held for medical personnel for 43 medical doctors. Within the framework of the project Bridging the Gaps, such trainings have been held since 2017.