Saturday, June 6, 2009


Ethiopia is a large African country with severe health care problems. The 83 million population face a multifaceted healthcare problem. There is a paucity of modern teaching in surgical techniques and preventative strategies. Perhaps the most alarming problem is the mass exodus of trained healthcare professionals out of the country frustrated with low salaries and lack of resources. Direct interviews with Ethiopian physicians cite frustration over lack of resources and training as the number one issue causing them to leave. This pattern prevails throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Africa receives 1.3 percent of the world's health workers while it carries 25% burden of disease(WHO 2004). The World Health Organization recently ranked Ethiopia 180th out of 190 listed nations in a global health report (WHO press release/44, June 2000). Currently there is roughly one physician for every 30,000 Ethiopians.
    Most traumatic injuries are treated without surgery and people are left with incredible morbidity from relatively straightforward injuries. Ethiopia has one of the highest percentages of AIDs cases in the world, however, the leading cause of death among young adults is trauma. There is virtually no adequate trauma care in the entire country. Spinal injuries get minimal treatment as well as compound fractures, and femur fractures are treated in traction, bedridden for 2 months with poor outcomes. These events, too often, render a family provider to a non-provider permanently. In 2004 MyungSung Christian Medical Center (MCM) was opened in Addis Ababa. This facility was built and funded by a South Korean Presbyterian Church of the same name. This is a relatively modern facility with 4 functional operating rooms. They have just opened an intensive care unit a trauma center, and a burn center. Previously, most burn patients received no treatment and die from dehydration and infection. The University of Bergen in Norway, has partnered with MCM and Addis Ababa University to establish a formal neurosurgical training program. Norwegian neurosurgeons are present throughout the year at MCM and will assist in the training and education of the residents. They currently have 7 residents in various stages of training. This alone will more than double the availability of neurosurgeons in Ethiopia.
    The issues with orthopaedic care are slightly more complex. Modern orthopaedic care depends on equipment and implants to provide good surgical outcomes. Many surgeons have brought in suitcases full of implants,however, the equipment is either incomplete or in very short supply. Our goal is to revolutionize the delivery of orthopaedic care in Ethiopia. We have been invited by the administration of MCM to help develop a comprehensive training program in orthopaedic surgery. In order for this to be successful we need short-term orthopaedic volunteers and a sustainable supply of modern implants and instrumentation as well as supply lines to restock the equipment. We will drastically reduce morbidity and mortality associated with all types of orthopaedic diseases. Join us. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don