MAP and the Royal College of Surgeons launch Basic Surgical Skills training in Gaza

Throughout a decade of blockade and closure, thousands of doctors have graduated from Gaza’s medical universities. For doctors, graduating is only the start of their training, and their entire careers will involve ongoing specialisation and professional development. But living in Gaza presents significant challenges to this.

Inside Gaza, development opportunities are very rare, and education abroad is a dream for many graduates. Even travelling for fellowships, residencies or conferences elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory – such as in East Jerusalem’s hospitals – is often impossible, and many medics struggle to access Israeli permits to travel out via the Erez crossing to attend them. The Rafah crossing with Egypt is also closed for almost all of the year.

The course content is very useful, granting us the opportunity to learn the RCS' surgical methods and to recognize how and why we do it this way.”

Dr Karim Batniji, faculty member

Enhancing local doctors’ capacity is therefore a major challenge in Gaza, and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) believes that developing local capacity and skills is crucial to ensure the long-term development of the Palestinian healthcare system.

Last month MAP, in cooperation with the Royal College of Surgeons – London (RCS), implemented the first dedicated Basic Surgical Skills course (BSS) in Gaza.

Under the direction and supervision of three experienced RCS trainers from the UK (Dr Shafi Ahmed, Dr Bejendra Patel and Dr Nicholas Markham), 21 junior surgeons working at Gaza hospitals undertook two days of practical training on essential basic surgical skills/techniques and patient safety and infection control within operating theatres.

The trainees were able to get hands-on experience with safe operating techniques, gowning and gloving, surgical knots, handling of surgical instruments, suturing techniques, skin lesions and local anesthetic techniques, and introduction to electrosurgery. It is hoped that this will help build surgical capacity in Gaza’s hospitals, and lead to better patient safety and surgical outcomes.

“This was a great course, all practical BSS training needs are covered, the faculty are highly supportive, and I’m looking forward to an advanced BSS course.”

Dr. Haitham Abu Sultan, Year 2 surgical resident

The course was preceded by a one day “Training of Trainers”, where 13 senior surgeons from major hospitals in Gaza learned how to deliver the basic surgical skills training, ensuring that a local faculty can sustainably deliver the course to more Gaza medics in future.

The BSS course is the first step in the new surgical capacity building surgery project as part of MAP’s ongoing collaboration with the Ministry of Health to improve emergency care services in Gaza. It was designed in cooperation with the RCS in response to a needs assessment that was carried out in January 2016, and will develop Gaza all hospitals’ surgical departments, advance the core surgical skills of local junior surgeons, and standardise surgical techniques in Gaza.

Don’t give me a fish, teach me how to fish. [The RCS team] have trained us, and then educated us how to educate others. Thank you to MAP, the RCS, the Human Resources and Development Department and colleagues”

Dr Issam Awadallah, faculty member

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