£9.5m medical training centre plan is a game-changer in Malawi’s medical future

A team of architects and engineers from Lancashire are working on a life-changing £9.5million project to deliver Malawi’s first specialist postgraduate medical training centre.

Leading structural engineering specialist TRP Consulting and architecture practice Cassidy + Ashton, based in Preston, are working on the initial design stages for the centre, which will also provide the most sophisticated research environment in the African country.

East African-based multi-disciplinary consultancy FBW Group, which also has strong links to the North West, is also involved in the project and is undertaking enabling surveys on the proposed site of the facility in the southern city of Blantyre.

The Clinical Research and Training Open Resource (Creator) project is a partnership between the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine (CoM), Queen Elizabeth's Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), the University of Liverpool and the medical research foundation Wellcome.

Malawi currently has around 600 clinical doctors to treat a population of 16 million people. The new centre will meet a critical need for further training and research opportunities, helping to halt the ‘brain drain’ that sees doctors leave the country to progress their careers.

Malawi has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world.

The Creator building will host state-of-the-art laboratories, flexible learning spaces and simulation rooms. Recording and live-stream capabilities will enable interaction with global health leaders across the world.

It will accommodate an expected 30 per cent rise in clinical research activity and postgraduate specialist clinical medical education over the next 10 years.

Working on this project has been both inspirational and challenging.

Wellcome has committed £1.9m to the project and LSTM and the University of Liverpool are providing £3m each. More fundraising is currently underway.

The Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (MLW) currently provides training for the next generation of clinical researchers and supports research nurses and clinicians at the Queen Elizabeth Central hospital (QECH) in Blantyre. The new centre will be built in its grounds.

Professor Stephen Gordon, Director of MLW, said: “We have been planning the Creator for more than three years as a partnership between QECH, CoM and partners in the UK. It will be a game-changer for medicine and science in Malawi.”

And LSTM’s director Professor David Lalloo said: “The need for the Creator building reflects the rapid growth and quality of Malawian medical science and LSTM is delighted to be a partner in a project that will help deliver even greater success.”

TRP Consulting, which has an office in Preston, is working on the structural development of the project.

Its structural engineers have a strong track record of delivery on large and complex building works and have widespread expertise in sectors ranging from health to sports stadia development.

Director Geoff Wilks said: “We’re delighted to be part of the team that is working to deliver this ground-breaking and vitally important project that will help address the many emerging health threats facing Malawi.”

The architectural team from the Preston office of Cassidy + Ashton is creating the initial designs for Creator.

Chris Taylor, director at Cassidy + Ashton and lead architect on the Creator building, said: “Working on this project has been both inspirational and challenging.

“From initially visiting the site in Malawi and understanding the complexities of the location and the end-users objectives, our strategy is to develop the design in the UK and then handover the project to a local multi-disciplinary practice, FBW, to convert the building to local techniques.

“This will involve careful consideration of materials, given the remote location, and consideration to the deprived area with its lack of skilled labour.

“The Creator building aims to become a meeting place of like-minded professionals in clinical research and training and I look forward to returning to the region to oversee the project management through to completion.”

Leading East African planning, design, architecture and engineering team FBW Group will provide its expertise on the ground, taking on project management as the building develops.

It is the latest in a series of life-changing medical projects that the practice has helped deliver in Africa since its creation in 1994, including a number of clinics and hospitals serving remote rural areas.

A cornerstone of its work is the development and reconstruction of urban and rural hospitals, providing practical solutions, responding to the local conditions and at the same time creating healthy environments for patients.

FBW also has a strong track record in supporting British-based organisations to deliver international standards in East Africa. It has operations in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania and strong roots in the North West.

Architect Paul Moores, from Manchester, is managing director and FBW’s chief operational officer, director of engineering and Kenyan office head are all originally from Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

Paul, who is based in Kampala, Uganda, said: “This is an exciting and ground-breaking project to be involved in Creator is an asset that will make a real difference to people’s lives in Malawi.

“FBW has built strong links with the healthcare sector in the region since we began working here in 1994 and this is the latest in a portfolio of clinics, hospitals and research facilities that have benefitted people in so many ways.”

LSTM Estates Department is overseeing and supervising the project in conjunction with MLW.

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