I got a few responses to my ‘your turn’ post that I wanted to be sure I addressed. For those of you with more questions- please send them my way- I’d love to answer them.
One of the questions was: How does Mercy Ships partner with local physicians, especially local health systems, to do follow-up care and health promotion/prevention?
Great question. Mercy ships send an advance team in before we go in to a new country. Most of the time, we’ve been to the country before, so the advance team checks out our previous contacts and verifies that all of our information is accurate. We assess what surgeries already have specialists in the field and how trained up they are.
For example, here in Sierra Leone, in the past we partnered with a local business that formed a women’s clinic in Aberdeen, which specializes in Vesciovaginal Fistula surgeries. Currently, the clinic is fully operational on its own- without our help, and we don’t perform these VVF surgeries in Sierra Leone because their own country can provide those surgeries to them. Now, if we find a surgeon who needs more training, often we’ll bring them to the ship and help train them up so that thy can perform these surgeries after we leave.
We try to focus on surgeries that cannot be offered in country so that we do not take away from the development that has already happened. We also do not do ‘medical’ cases, meaning we don’t do long term cases. We focus on surgical cases. For example, we cannot operate on malignant tumors because they need follow-up chemo, but we do treat benign tumors.
We also work hand in hand with a few local hospitals to help them learn how to provide follow-up for our patients. For example, we do a ponsetti training program to help treat orthopedic patients, which will be something the hospitals and programs can continue when we leave. We’ve also been aiding in treatment of Burkett’s patients in the local children’s hospital, which is also a skill that can be carried on.
As for prevention and health promotion, we don’t do as much of that- especially on the training front, but we do help host local conventions- such as an anesthesiologist convention. We also provide training for prevention and health promotion in our dental clinic, eye clinic and in our outpatient center for all patients who come through.
We also have our food for life program, which is our agricultural program. Through this program, we trained 16 locals in agriculture, who then took the knowledge to their villages and trained up local villagers. In this program, they learned lots about different fruits and veggies that promote different aspects of health and why, so they can pass the knowledge to local villages. I love that programJ I’m hoping I answered that question in the way you wrote it;)
Someone else requested more patient stories- I have TONS of those, so I’ll be sure to post more of them from time to time;) I’m frequently down on the ward visiting, so I’ve made friends with tons of different people- especially plastics patients(patients who have suffered burn contractures). More on that laterJ
As for me, I’ll be with the ship until somewhere between February and June 2013. We’ll see what happens. It’s possible I’ll be back- especially if we end up with an Asia Mercy, which is in the beginning stages- I’d love to see more of the world and serve, but we’ll seeJ I committed to 2 years, which is up February 27, 2013- I think I’d like to be home for Easter that year, but again- we’ll seeJ