Dr Bijendra Patel, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, recently returned from a visit to Gaza, where he and his colleagues from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), England, are helping to develop essential surgical training and skills amongst local Palestinian health workers. Since the launch of the training programme in March 2017 by charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the RCS, Dr Patel has helped to improve surgical standards and training for 13 consultants and 118 medical trainees across five hospitals, providing access to surgical education that would otherwise not be available.
The RCS runs Basic Surgical Skills and Core Skills in Laparoscopic Surgery courses at the Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, which over the last two years have both been adapted and launched in Gaza. As a result, healthcare professionals in Gaza have received training on safe operating techniques, gowning and gloving, surgical knots, handling of surgical instruments, suturing techniques, local anaesthetic techniques and an introduction to electrosurgery. Using simulation, trainees have also been able to gain hands-on experience with common laparoscopic surgical procedures. So far, 76 and 42 trainees have taken part in the Basic Surgical Skills and Core Skills in Laparoscopic Surgery courses, respectively.
As well as training junior surgeons, Dr Patel and his colleagues have provided training to senior surgeons from major hospitals in Gaza, equipping them with the skills required to deliver the two training courses themselves. This has created a sustainable model for surgical training, using local faculty to improve healthcare throughout Gaza.
In addition to the training courses, surgeons in Gaza have performed complex laparoscopic surgeries alongside RCS consultants, allowing them to learn new surgical techniques whilst treating patients. On their most recent visit, Dr Patel and his colleague Professor Shafi Ahmed (Consultant Colorectal Surgeon) performed a laparoscopic surgery on a patient with cancer, which was recorded live and streamed to medical trainees in another room in the hospital. This interactive training experience was the first of its kind in Gaza.
The establishment of the Basic Surgical Skills and Core Skills in Laparoscopic Surgery courses by MAP and the RCS has provided invaluable professional development opportunities for Gaza’s healthcare workers, and will help to ensure that local patients receive the care that they need.
As part of the ongoing project to enhance the surgical capacity in Gaza, MAP has supported the establishment of a Surgical Simulation Centre, which has now been accredited by the RCS. This will allow senior health practitioners to deliver the Basic Surgical Skills and Core Skills in Laparoscopic Surgery courses to junior surgeons and intern doctors, ensuring the long-term development of the healthcare system in Gaza.
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