ECHO aims to provide specialist care for people in rural and isolated communities by enabling local medical professionals to consult with doctors and nurses in Montevideo by videoconference.
The project, which until now covered only cases of Hepatitis C and HIV, will now be extended to include both palliative care and hematology.
The announcement follows a visit earlier this month by palliative care expert, Prof Dr Max Watson. A visiting professor at the University of Ulster and a consultant at the Northern Ireland Hospice, Prof Watson has recently been piloting the ECHO project in Northern Ireland.
While in Montevideo, he delivered three lectures (‘The challenge of developing a palliative care service in a modern hospital’, ‘Management of breakthrough pain’ and ‘ECHO Project: Experience in Northern Ireland’) and gave a fourth (‘Dementia care at the end of life’) in San Jose.
“The big learning challenge for ECHO is to create a community of people who support each other through hard work,” Prof Watson told Uruguayan newspaper El Observador. “The key to ECHO is not technology, but creating a network of people who feel an obligation to do good.”
According to the Uruguayan Ministry of Health, there are over 16,000 new patients needing to use palliative care services every year. The ECHO project should mean that far more of these patients will now be able to receive treatment without having to travel to Montevideo.