AFOPA member and Ophthalmologist, Dr Francis Nathan, reports back on his recent visit to Lebanon, 13-18 August 2016, with the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF).
The venue for the surgical mission was the Bashaer Medical Centre run by the Syrian American Medical Society in Tripoli.
I was assisted by Dr Mahmoud, a local ophthalmologist, and Mahmoud al Hajj, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) Co-ordinator.
More than 6o patients (Syrian and Palestinian refugees) were screened the first day and 28 cataract operations were completed over the next 4 days. The number of surgeries was lower than planned (40 were scheduled) and this was due to a number of reasons:
- Some lens implants of the desired power were not available and those patients had to be postponed.
- Some time was expended attempting to use the new phaco machine* but the efforts were abandoned as the operating microscope did not provide a clear enough view to use the machine safely. Besides, most of the cataracts were advanced and it was not deemed safe to proceed.
- A camera crew was assigned to record some of the events on the 3rd day and this slowed down the proceedings.
- A number of patients had to be cancelled because of co-morbidities like uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension.
- Extra time was spent in teaching and assisting Dr Mahmoud with the patients he operated on.
Nevertheless, the mission was successful in that a better routine and flow of patients was established with improved pre-operative preparation and post-operative followup, with Dr Mahmoud and Mr Mahmoud assuming pivotal roles.
I was most impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the Operating Room staff, viz. Eisam, Abu Khalid and Abdul, and Malik, who ran the pre-op preparation schedule in the Clinic.
I was pleased to deliver a vital piece of new equipment, donated by AFOPA on this visit. This was a hand-held portable slit lamp microscope for examining patients, manufactured by Scan Optics, a local Adelaide company. We also were able to make use of 2 other items (biometer and keratometer) donated by AFOPA in 2010, which still functioned well.
Another diagnostic item, an indirect ophthalmoscope that was donated by Anjula Thaper of Scan Optics will be delivered later on the next mission.
I also delivered a portable Neuro-muscular Electrical Stimulator for the Rehabilitation Dept donated by Merlin Nathan.
I would like to thank Morag Horton for donating medications and David Hautopt for donating some consumables for the surgery.
Mahmoud and I also met with representatives of the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in Beirut who were keen to discuss our help in starting eye surgery missions to the Bekaa Valley next year. They have most of the equipment available and a dedicated local eye surgeon willing to participate as well.
I am most grateful for the ongoing support of PCRF for bearing my travel expenses and taking care of all other arrangements in Lebanon.
I am privileged for the opportunities I have had working with such an outstanding humanitarian organisation.
Dr Francis Nathan,
Visiting Eye Surgeon,
> Read PCRF article on Dr Francis Nathan's working visit to Lebanon.