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Madagascar: UK medics share skills

Hospital ship Africa Mercy has been hosting skills courses for African volunteers taken by British medics ...

Mercy Ships has been working in partnership with the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) and the Royal College of Surgeons of England to provide potential lifesaving skills and knowledge for African volunteers.

Mercy Ships operates the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest hospital ship that offers free medical care and humanitarian aid to some of the world’s poorest people.

The ship is currently docked in Madagascar, where over 90% of the population lives on just 75p a day. Furthermore, there are only two physicians and three hospital beds available for every 10,000 people, meaning that the healthcare situation is one that is rather desperate.

The first Basic Surgical Skills course was held a few weeks ago aboard the Africa Mercy and welcomed 15 participants from villages across Madagascar. The aim of the course was to provide participants with the medical skills and the knowledge required to perform basic surgeries and conduct medical treatments; allowing African communities to build strong healthcare resources and expertise for the future.

With the support of charitable funds, ASGBI were able to transport the course instructors to Madagascar and provide the teaching materials required.

Professor John Primrose, President of ASGBI, who was instrumental in setting up this course said: “The 15 participants in the Basic Surgical Skills course came from various backgrounds and had very different levels of experience; from a doctor to the surgical chief of staff from a nearby hospital.

“What was interesting was that they all took something positive away from the course. Those with very little experience learned how to do basic treatments safely and the more experienced surgeons learned new techniques to help improve their practice.

“The participants also ranked their confidence in various skills before and after the course and results showed all of the participant’s confidence levels had increased significantly and all indicated the desire to share their newfound knowledge with the other medics they work with. The course went extremely well!

“Our instructors were also impressed by the very warm welcome they received from the staff of the Africa Mercy, commenting that they were instantly made to feel they were amongst friends and that the ships infrastructure and equipment made it possible to provide a high standard of teaching.”

Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “We are immensely thankful for the work of the ASGBI and the Royal College of Surgeons of England which allowed us to facilitate the Basic Surgical Skills course, hopefully the first of many such courses.

“After the course’s success there has been a great deal of enthusiasm, especially from the surgical trainees to continue this collaboration and we are now looking at the ways in which we can do this. The skills and knowledge gained through such courses will undoubtedly help to improve the healthcare of local communities and transform the lives of so many people, many of whom are in need of life-saving surgeries.”


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