Medical marvels in the DRC

Partners in Global Development Group project J730N ‘AusHEAL in Congo Project’, Dr Neil and Gwen Wetzig are building medical capacity at the HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area devastated by continuing civil violence and poverty.

Dr Wetzig often works together with surgeons on-the-job in the hospital. Gwen tells this story: “Last year, Neil saw a young, nine-year-old girl who accidentally drank acid, destroying her oesophagus and leaving her unable to swallow. The girl’s parents spent all their money taking her to four different hospitals with no success. She came malnourished, with father pleading for help.

“Neil performed ‘oesophageal bypass’ surgery on her. This was major surgery, but she seemed to recover well. This week her father brought her to the hospital for a clinical review. She is SO well–no side-effects, eating and swallowing normally. She is even back at school…It’s so good to know that due to successful treatment she is able to gain an education and will have a future,” Gwen said.

Apart from the surgical training program (COSECSA), a new training initiative has been established at HEAL Africa Hospital called “H.A.T.S.” (Heal Africa Training Scheme). Training under this program will cover the following areas:  family medicine, orthopaedic, officers’ training program (nurses), neonatal nurses’ training, radiology training, with the anticipation of maternity training, and probably emergency medicine training.

A hospital counsellor training school was also launched at HEAL Africa hospital this month.  Twelve men and women from community villages and committees have begun clinical training to enable a holistic approach in healing. The community leaders are taught to listen as people tell their stories and offer wise counsel.

“Training counsellors will begin an approach to educate people in communities and villages about the benefits and value of seeking trained medical help from hospitals. Secondly, communication networks between hospital and village will be fostered and strengthened,” Gwen said.

Together, the couple have initiated a new project with Global Development Group, J900N ‘Surgicalife’. On a global scale, the project aims to focus on improving surgical access and care in low and middle income countries around the world by 80% (by 2030). The goal is sustainable change to surgical capacity by training and teaching indigenous clinicians to perform safe and affordable surgery.

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