October 08, 2013

On October 1, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a new surgical program at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. “The aim is to share knowledge and skills, both in reconstructive surgery and post-operative care,” explained MSF surgeon Dr. Mahesh Prabhu.The new program extends services that MSF began offering in 2010, when the organization opened a reconstructive plastic surgery and post-operative care program at Nasser hospital, in collaboration with local health authorities. The program treats victims of trauma, domestic accidents, burns and other injuries and aims to help patients regain optimum use of their limbs.“We hope that our work at Al-Shifa Hospital will increase the number of patients receiving treatment and reduce the Ministry of Health’s waiting list,” said Tommaso Fabbri, MSF head of mission in Jerusalem.Apart from a few private surgeons and clinics, Al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals are the only facilities able to provide reconstructive surgery in Gaza. The blockade implemented in 2007 resulted in over 450 patients having to wait from 12 to 18 months for their operations.Teams of international MSF staff, including surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists, travel several times a year to Gaza and work with the teams at Nasser and Al-Shifa hospitals.MSF performs two types of surgeries: plastic surgery and specialist hand surgery. The MSF teams performed 126 procedures – 63% on children – at Nasser hospital between January and September 2013. After their operations, patients are referred to an MSF post-operative care clinic.Physiotherapy plays a key role in patient rehabilitation, as it helps them to heal more quickly and suffer less pain. There is a room set aside for hand physiotherapy in the MSF clinic. Most patients are children. MSF teams work to help each of them regain optimum use of their hands. MSF also treats patients referred by the Ministry of Health and other facilities.In addition to the surgery program, MSF runs a psycho-medical program in Nablus, Hebron and East Jerusalem. The organization has been working in the Palestinian Territories since 1989 and in Gaza since 2000.