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Feb 2012 Ghana and Sierra Leone: Report from the Chairman

I travelled to West Africa at the end of January, visiting the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre in Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana first of all where I was to help with the assessment of five trainee surgeons.

I then travelled to Makeni in Sierra Leone, where I joined a team sponsored by the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, at the Holy Spirit Hospital.

The assessment of the trainees in Ghana was very thorough and based on the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons Examination. The candidates were Nii-ayi Ankrah, Edem Anyigba, Ebkela Baidoo and Kwame Darko. Adigo Atabo, who was a trainee visiting the Centre, was also included in the assessment.

The first day, the examinees were asked to write answers to two questions and the following day were examined individually by all the examiners on one long case and several small cases.   The exam was very well conducted and the trainees were comprehensibly assessed.   It was decided thatEdem Anyigba should be selected as the trainee to travel to South Africa later this year, for one year, in order to broaden his training and Kwame Darko and Nii-Ayi Ankrah should be funded to attend the flap and microcourses held at the Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit at Glasgow Royal Infirmary this September.

I then travelled to the Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni, Sierra Leone, where I met with Scott Brown, an anaesthetist from Oregon, USA and Yvette Godwin a plastic surgeon from the UK.  We joined a team from the UK who were funded by the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, consisting of Nanek Sarhadi, a plastic surgeon, Ian Sinha,  an orthopaedic surgeon, Scott Farmery an anaesthetist, Kirsty Waterfield, a nurse and Tamsin Lees a physiotherapist.  All of these people were very experienced experts, some had visited the Holy Spirit before and together they made up a very able team.

One of the aims was to see if it would be possible to set up a computerised case notes filing system that could be shared, by means of the web, by all those medical personnel who were authorized to do so.   Unfortunately, the lack of a dependable electricity supply and thus a very unreliable connection to the internet made this impossible to do in real time.  There remain other possibilities, however , and we hope to be able to achieve something that will allow universal access before long.

The nurses at the Holy Spirit have designed a week of in house training, which is a very encouraging development, since one of our concerns has been that the standard of nursing has to be raised to a higher level.   The first course will run from the 2nd until the 6th of April (inclusive) hopefully it will be followed by many more.

Catherine Liao, an intensive care nurse working in Makeni  for a year with VSO, is taking part in the course and has promised to give us a critical assessment of how it goes.    ReSurge Africa is sponsoring this event and has provided a laptop computer and a digital projector as well, our hopes for a successful course are running high!

Eight more missions are planned for 2012, so it cannot be said that we are allowing the grass to grow under our feet!

Martyn Webster

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