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Namibia's own state of the art lung clinic

24 September 2015

Thanks to the Namibian Lung Clinic (NLC) at the Welwitschia Hospital in Walvis Bay, the detection of lung disease is now so much easier.

In support of the initiatives of the NLC, Welwitschia Hospital invested in a low-dose spiral CT scanner about a year ago. It was the first unit delivered to any facility in Africa.

The NLC provides consultationand evaluation of patients with allergies, ear, nose and throat problems, sleep disorders, pulmonary and respiratory-related diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asbestosis, lung cancer, sarcoidosis, pulmonary fibrosis, lung volume reduction and other pulmonary conditions and disabilities.

Patients typically include those who need specialist confirmation of a diagnosis and depending on the complexities thereof, treatment or the intervention required, it may be appropriate in some cases for the specialist to manage the patient over a period of time or to co-manage those with severe pulmonary conditions.

The clinic provides assistance with the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD, lung cancer, occupational respiratory diseases, mycobacterium (TB) lung disease, interstitial lung disease and sleep disorders.

The infrastructure to diagnose lung diseases includes allergic testing, state-of the-art pulmonary function testing, flexible bronchoscopy and computed tomography (CT). Screening by low-dose CT adds an additional dimension to preventative services, as there is evidence that screening of longstanding smokers, aged 55 to 74 years, could benefit from this special screening program.

The clinic is a joint initiative by the Welwitschia Hospital, the Uranium Institute of Namibia, the Dr Paul Coulson Foundation, the University of Namibia and the Department of Pulmonary Medicine of the University Hospital of Bern in Switzerland.

The choice of location was prompted by the harbour town’s proximity to uranium mines as well as other industries where occupational health spearheads the fight against lung disease. The town also has one of the highest incidences of tuberculosis in Africa and is prone to windy conditions, sand and dust, as well as periodic sulphur eruptions in the lagoon. This makes it a high risk zone for many respiratory diseases like asthma, sinus-infections and allergies.

The clinic works on referrals from medical practitioners and can conduct testing ranging from minor or less life threatening respiratory diseases as well as diagnosing more serious respiratory diseases.

The clinic also performs bronchoscopes and intra-pulmonary sonography usingf a low dose 16 Slice CT scanner.

The machine was developed with new technology to reduce patient radiation dose by up to 70 percent, giving new hope for the screening of lung cancer.
An objective of the lung clinic is the training of health professionals. In this regard the NLC joined forces with the Polytechnic of Namibia, the University of Bern and the Southern African Foundation of Professional Development (FDP). Certificate courses are offered to doctors and registered nurses in Spirometry, Asthma, COPD, Occupational Lung Diseases and TB.

With regards to research, pulmonary impairment and disability assessment, the NLC is committed to performing research in the field of occupational lung disease and tuberculosis, with research programs in these areas currently being established.

Article by Henriette Lamprecht