MAP’s first joint mission to support vascular surgery and general surgery care in Gaza

From 21 to 26 May, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) hosted its first ever joint mission to Gaza on vascular surgery and general surgery. A multidisciplinary team of four UK experts joined the mission: Bijendra Patel, Professor of General Surgery; Deepak Hariharan, Consultant Hepatobiliary and Pancreas Surgeon; Ibrahim Riza, Consultant Vascular Surgeon; and Salah Quota, Diabetic Foot Physician.

This mission marked the launch of MAP's new project to support vascular surgery care in Gaza, as well as the upper gastrointestinal (GI) subspecialty of general surgery. It was also an opportunity for MAP to continue its support to laparoscopic surgical capacity – a surgical procedure to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.

An assessment conducted by MAP found that vascular surgery services in Gaza fail to meet international standards and are plagued by huge shortages in medical supplies, and gaps in human resources. This is largely caused by Israel’s 15-year illegal closure and blockade, which restricts the movement of people and goods, including routinely denying healthcare workers permits to access training or professional development opportunities outside of Gaza.

The lack of specialised medical equipment in Gaza’s hospitals also means many patients must be referred to receive treatment abroad – most commonly in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In April 2022, there were 1,965 referrals for patients from Gaza, with vascular surgery accounting for 2% of cases.

Over five days, the visiting team worked alongside Palestinian health workers at hospitals and supported the assessment of 35 cases (20 GI and 15 vascular), including 11 women and a child, and conducted 14 surgeries (10 GI and 4 vascular), including nine women, on patients suffering from benign and malignant conditions.

The UK volunteers also conducted a two-day laparoscopic surgery master class, where 30 general surgery trainees attended a live stream of 11 laparoscopic surgeries in an adjuvant room to the theatre, while the senior surgeons were operating and explaining the procedure.

Dr. Abeer Algherbawi, a third year general surgery trainee, described how glad she was to join the laparoscopic master class and to attend the mission’s activities: “Surgery is my passion. I was really happy that I could attend the master class, it was an opportunity not only to watch the surgeries but also to listen to the professor explaining the steps and what he was doing, particularly at this stage of my early years of residency training.”

Dr. Issam Awadallah, a Senior General Surgeon added: “Under supervision of Prof. Patel, I performed complex surgeries which made me feel confident that I can carry out such surgeries on my own.”

The visit ended with a joint symposium attended by 120 health specialists, who together agreed on a plan to enhance vascular surgery and laparoscopic surgical services in Gaza.

At least five further missions on vascular surgery and general surgery are planned for the rest of the year, and MAP will also deliver essential equipment and medical supplies to support patients’ treatment.

Please consider donating to MAP to help us continue supporting vascular surgery services in Gaza.

(Photo credits: Reflection Media / MAP).

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