Rotary medical missions to Africa are welcomed at the hospitals there by both the patients as well as the local doctors who look forward to learn from the expertise of their Indian counterparts. And, they come packaged with a bonanza of medicines, consumables and gadgets in large cartels for patient care.
But what came as a shock for the 22-member Medical Mission from District 3250 (Bihar and Jharkhand) to Accra, capital of Ghana, led by IPDG Dr R Bharat, was that the doctors in Ghana rarely administer general anaesthesia for patients undergoing surgery.
“We had to source nitrous oxide, a base used for anaesthesia, from outside as the hospitals don’t stock them,” says Dr Bharat. PDG Jogesh Gambhir was the team leader, and a volunteer.
With good exposure to African hospitals through his previous missions to Rwanda and Malawi, this plastic surgeon consulted PDG Jogesh Gambhir who came on board as Project Director for the mission comprising 17 doctors across specialties and four volunteers.
A global grant of $80,000 from TRF was finalised with the help of PDG Madhukar Malhotra, D 3080, after RC Accra Ring Road Central, D 9102, was chosen as ‘host beneficiary’ partner.
“The Ghanaian doctors had screened and shortlisted over 2,500 patients. We landed in Accra on May 4, and for nine days the entire operations shifted to Lekma, La General and Ridge Hospitals, where we did 172 surgeries in major disciplines,” recalls Dr Bharat.
It was a ‘historic mission’ for the medical team from D 3250 as, for the first time, doctors from this region had gone to Africa.
“We were exposed to working in unfamiliar situations at the hospitals that lacked specialty care; thanks to our excess baggage of equipment and consumables, we could deliver our best.”
But the irony is they had to pay a duty of Rs 1.75 lakh for that baggage at Kolkata airport. Unlike in India, government hospitals in Ghana charge patients.
The Accra club had arranged the logistics and coordinated patient management with the hospitals. The Indian doctors extended their services in secondary care including surgeries in orthopaedic, laparoscopy, ophthalmology, dentistry, gynaecology and facial deformities (plastic surgery), besides some rare cases like treatment of cancerous knee and post-burn deformities.
However, what amazed them was the stoicism of the African patients. “They have a strong will and loads of stamina to endure post-operative trauma,” says Dr Vijaya Bharat, cardiologist.
For ophthalmologist Biphuti P Sinha, this mission was an eye-opener as he found that Africans are exposed to a peculiar cornea disorder due to their genetic disposition.
The Rotary team also provided ‘hands-on training’ to junior consultants, resident doctors, nurses and paramedical staff. “While 20 local doctors were trained across specialties, nearly 50 paramedics and support staff were educated on modern procedures in patient care,” says Bharat.
As only primary care services are available in Ghana hospitals, even in metro towns there is acute shortage of facilities, manpower and medical skills in delivering secondary and tertiary care.
At the end of the mission, the team donated medical supplies, gadgets and consumables to the hospitals. The Indian High Commissioner to Ghana Birendra Singh Yadav gave a reception to the medical team at his office.
The original idea
In 2016, when PRIP Rajendra K Saboo and then TRF Chair Kalyan Banerjee visited Africa, they found that people in Ghana were suffering from poor health care.
Returning home, Saboo mooted the idea of undertaking a Rotary Mission to Dr Bharat at a club meeting and this was readily accepted by the surgeon who has to his credit more than 5,000 cleft lip procedures done on children through Operation Muskan and the hospital train Lifeline Express that meanders through villages.
Now, he is getting ready to lead another medical mission to Mongolia from District 3080 in August.
Doctors on a mission
- Plastic surgeons: R Bharat, Veena Singh
- Cardiologist: Vijaya Bharat
- Laparoscopic surgeons: Ashok Chattoraj, Manoj Kumar
- Orthopaedic surgeons: Indroneil Bhaduri, Ravi Kumar
- Gynaecologists: Mamta Rath Datta, Vina Kumari
- Ophthalmologists: Jags Bedi, Biphuti P Sinha
- Dental surgeons: Jahar Banerjee, Nimmi Singh
- Anaesthesiologists : B C Mahapatra, Rajiv Shukla, Vamsi Uppalapatti, Sanjeev Kumar
- Volunteers: Jogesh Gambhir (Team Leader), Manju Gambhir, Sharat Chandran, Anuradha Jaiswal and Avinash Dugar