The Operation Hernia project provides an example of creating wealth through surgery. Operations mainly benefit farmers and fishermen leading to increased productivity and its subsequent impact on the local economy. Terms of surgeons and nurses have been visiting Sekondi-Takoradi since 2005, operating on over 100 patients per visit.
The aims are to provide training, education, research and relevant services; supported by the Plymouth NHS Trust. The teams train doctors on relevant new technology and have developed service provision such as a limb-fitting centre.
The work has progressed with recognition from the local government in Takoradi and Ghana High Commission and importantly benefits from the involvement of the local medical community.
Operation Hernia is an independent UK charity and non-profit organisation, which has links with the American College of Surgeons Operation GivingBack organisation and is now also working in other low-income countries.
Inguinal Hernia is a public health problem in Africa. Although Inguinal Hernia develops at all ages (mainly in men) and in all parts of the world with the same frequency, in Africa they are not treated due to lack of hospitals and surgeons. In the Bole District of Northern Ghana, there are ten times more patients with hernia compared to an equivalent population in Europe. The healthcare workforce in African and other low-income countries is severely depleted due to migration of workers to better paid and better equipped facilities in high-income countries. As a result numerous deaths and cases of permanent disability occur because Inguinal Hernia requiring elective or urgent surgery are not treated.
In rural Africa, it has been estimated that less than 1 in 5 Inguinal Hernias requiring surgery actually receive an operation. Few patients with neglected hernias that strangulate may not even reach a hospital, and die needlessly. In rural areas previously fit young people die because simple surgical services are unaffordable.
In rural areas of Africa basic surgical services are not available and there is no possibility that Governments will be able to provide such facilities in the near future. Partnerships are required between charities such as Operation Hernia and NGOs in Africa in order to provide surgical care delivered by Teams of Volunteers. Operation Hernia has supported surgical services in Takoradi and Carpenter with over 15 humanitarian missions and treated over 1000 patients that otherwise would not have received a potentially life-saving operation.
The Regional hospital in Takoradi covers a population of 1.5 million and employs only three surgeons and other anaesthetist. In the District hospitals only basic surgical care can be administered.
In Carpenter, medical care is administered by Medical Assistances and surgical supported is provided by the District Hospital at Wenchi, a distance of 70 kilometres.
The Jaipur Limb Project
Provision of a facility at Sampumu Dunkwa east of Takoradi Ghana providing assessment, construction and fitting of artificial feet and legs. Technology developed in Jaipur, India is used. The building works comprise the renovation and partial reconstruction of a former construction site office now redundant since the construction works for which it was built have been completed.
All civil and building works have been finalised and the facility first started to operate in November 2008 with formal opening and handover to the Ghana Ministry of Health on 29 May 2009. Delays occurred through lack of adequate water supply and time taken for technician training and in addition, refurbishment by the local municipality of site living accommodation for the resident orthopaedic staff. Water supply to the site and living accommodation has been refurbished. Furniture and fittings have all been installed. Supply of specialist tooling, consumables and fittings have been paid for by the Jaipur Trust and were shipped from India with delivery in Takoradi Port late Summer 2008. Three technicians from the local Ministry of Health were seconded for se veral months to a Roman Catholic Orthopaedic Limb fitting centre near Accra and undertook specialist training to provide them with the basic experience in limb production and fitting to enable them with further training to man the facility. A Ugandan national expatriate Jaipur Limb fitting trainer visited for three months in late 2008 to provide assistance with commissioning and provide training specific to the Jaipur Limb for the three local technicians. The facility is now fully operational.
Location and Beneficiaries:
The facility is located at Sapumu Dunkwa approximately 25km east of Takoradi and adjacent to the main Takoradi to Accra highway. The beneficiary of the project is the local Ministry of Health who operate, maintain and staff the completed facility.
The patient through-put has yet to be tested and can only be reliably by quantified when the facility is operational for a significant amount of time. The impact of the quality of life for patients will be great since they will be arriving unable to walk and departing with this capability provided. Potential patients will be pre-screened by local Ministry of Health Doctors to ensure that effective treatment at Sapumu-Dunkwa can be achieved.
Causes for absence of limbs are generally attributed to:
- Malformation due to Polio
- Amputation of limb - the principal cause being snake bite amongst villagers and agricultural workers where following the bite a lack of first aid treatment results in septicaemia, gangrene and need to amputate
- Effect of hostilities (this is currently considered to be less significiant than the two causes set out above)
Learning through Operation Hernia