UK medics deliver Gaza’s first colorectal surgical training

Last month, five UK-based medics, including members of the UK’s Royal College of Surgeons, travelled to Gaza with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) to continue developing surgical skills amongst Palestinian health workers. The visiting professionals, comprising one nurse and four surgeons, delivered the first colorectal surgical training, helping local medics treat patients with bowel disease and colon cancer, the second most common cancer in Gaza.

Day One: Outpatient Clinic at Gaza’s largest Hospital

The week began with an outpatient clinic at Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa. There, 13 patients, including those with colon or rectal cancer, were assessed for surgery by the visiting team. They were joined by 13 local surgeons from five major hospitals in Gaza (Al Shifa, Al Aqsa, Nasser, Indonesian and the European Gaza Hospital), who presented the patient’s diagnoses.  

Day two, three and four: Surgeries and live streamed master classes

Over three days, the visiting medics worked side-by-side with local surgeons to undertake 10 colorectal surgeries. For the first two days the local team observed in the theatre and then, on the third day, performed the operations themselves, supported by the visiting medics.

Among the new surgical techniques taught by the team was including a laparoscopic hemicolectomy. This is an operation to treat colon cancer and bowel diseases by removing damaged parts of the colon, by passing a video camera (laparoscope) and surgical instruments through several small "keyhole" incisions in the stomach. Laparoscopic surgery has great potential benefits, including reducing patient’s recovery time and leaving much smaller scars externally and internally.

To make sure these new skills reached as many local surgeons as possible, three of the surgeries were live streamed as part of a master class attended by 40 local surgeons and 10 nurses.   

Following each surgery, the visiting nurse undertook ward rounds with the surgeons to check on the patients’ recovery. They continued following up with them with the local nursing team throughout the week.

There was also an opportunity to assess the capacity at Al Shifa hospital for ‘stoma care’ nursing, in support of those patients who have undergone colostomy or ileostomy. After spending time with the UK-based colorectal cancer specialist nurse, the local team are very eager to receive further specialised training in stoma care.

Day four: Colorectal surgery symposium

On the fourth day a symposium was held, where the visiting medics delivered presentations on colorectal surgery to 80 local health workers. The symposium was attended by surgeons and nurses, as well as the Director of Hospitals Dr. Abdulsalam Sabbah, representing the Ministry of Health, who warmly welcomed the first colorectal surgical mission to Gaza.

Day five: Debrief meeting and next steps

Before leaving Gaza, the UK-based medics met with MAP’s team in Gaza to review the mission and think through the next steps for developing a multi-disciplinary team approach to colorectal surgery in Gaza.

MAP would like to thank the visiting experts for their time and energy.

If you would like to support MAP’s work in Gaza, please donate today:

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