The Gaza-based therapists celebrated the completion of their training in an online graduation ceremony in February 2022
Doha, 21 March 2022: The Speech Therapy Department at the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute (QRI) has successfully concluded a valuable speech therapy training program with healthcare professionals based in the Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Hospital for Rehabilitation in Gaza on the West Bank of Palestine. The goal of this program was to upskill local Palestinian clinicians in providing more up-to-date diagnosis and treatment for children with dysphagia and thereby provide better health and quality of life for these children.
Dysphagia in pediatrics refers to problems related to feeding and swallowing that are brought on by disease, illness, or congenital defects at birth. Some of the most common causes of pediatric dysphagia include prematurity, developmental delays, cleft lip or cleft palate, brain injury, cerebral palsy, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). International reports state that 25%-45% of children demonstrate feeding and swallowing problems during early developmental stages and the prevalence of dysphagia is even higher (30%-80%) for children with developmental disorders. The Pediatric Dysphagia Clinic at QRI has developed a service based on international best practices in treating such disorders.
The training team involved in providing the free online training included experts from QRI’s pediatric dysphagia clinic who worked on developing the comprehensive course materials. Five Speech Therapists were involved in the 15-month long training program that was delivered online and included theoretical knowledge as well as practical demonstration and training in using the donated tools and equipment. In addition, six Speech Therapists from HMC in Qatar also joined this training to take this opportunity to build their competency and sharpen their clinical skills in this specialized area.
Mrs. Eman Yousef Al-Mulla, Chief of Speech Therapy Department at HMC, explained the challenges of providing this training to healthcare professionals who are working in the besieged Gaza Strip. “While Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Hospital has some equipment, they did not have all appropriate tools and materials needed for therapies in their clinics and we applied creative thinking to help the Gaza-based team develop tools using local resources. Additional tools and equipment were donated by HMC’s Speech Therapy Department, which was welcomed by colleagues in Sheikh Hamad Hospital.”
“It was not easy for our colleagues in Gaza, having to deal with multiple power outages that interrupted the internet connectivity needed for the online training. Moreover, we all had to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted how we could work. We also had to adapt the training to be delivered completely online without the usual benefit of practical face-to-face sessions. But I am pleased with how well we adapted the training program to deal with these handicaps and the success of the program to date,” said Mrs. Al-Mulla. “Overall this was an amazing experience for all parties involved; my team was incredibly eager to share their time and expertise with colleagues in Gaza who in turn were happy to gain more knowledge and ability to help their patients.”
The training program, which started in August of 2020, was initially intended to run for approximately 18 weeks but was extended as a result of the challenging conditions experienced by the Sheikh Hamad Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics in Gaza. The hospital was sponsored by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), under the patronage of His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and inaugurated in 2019.
“We have been in touch with the team in Gaza who have been doing a great job implementing the new learning and equipment with the children in their care. Doing this type of work is very emotionally rewarding and we hope to repeat the exercise at a future date,” added Mrs. Al-Mulla. “We were thankful to have the support of our senior leaders, including Mr. Mahmoud Al Raisi, our Chief of Continuing Care at HMC, and Dr. Hanadi Al Hamad, Medical Director of QRI and Rumailah Hospital, who encouraged us every step of the way.”
The training was delivered by experienced speech therapy specialists with expertise in Dysphagia; led by Mr. Ibrahim Alayaseh, Speech-language pathologists (SLP) Supervisor, and Ms. Asha Gopinath, SLP Specialist at QRI. The training focused on teaching the latest techniques to promote feeding (accepting and preparing food orally) and swallowing (transporting food from the mouth to the stomach) in children with Dysphagia. The QRI teams continue to meet regularly with the speech therapy team in Gaza for case conferences and discussions that provide continuous training support for the team and their patients.
Feeding and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) are considered a highly specialized medical subspecialty in the speech pathology field. The well-trained and skillful Speech Pathologists at QRI are also qualified to train other speech therapists.