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Medics help health teams in Uganda ‘move forward’

MEDICS from Gloucestershire have returned from sharing their expertise in Uganda.

County hospital staff from the ear, nose and throat department spent two weeks in the African country passing on their skills to local doctors.

Consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon Matthew Clark was on his second trip to the country, where life expectancy is 48 years for men and 57 for women.

Mr Clark, who works at Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals, said: “The most striking thing is the lack of trained people they have to treat the disease that they have in front of them and the local frustration at not being able to deal with things that they recognise.

“Just giving up two weeks is not very much, but you definitely see it can move the local surgeons forward, especially if you go back each year.

“It makes you feel less like complaining about some of the situations you find in the UK.”

Cheltenham resident Mr Clark, who was joined by theatre nurse Kate Snook and health care assistant Lucy Wilkins, both from Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, spent time operating on people with ear conditions alongside local surgeons from the capital Kampala.

He said: “Large cross-sectional studies in Uganda have shown that more than 10 per cent of both the adult and paediatric population have disabling hearing loss.

“Of this, about 20 per cent of adult and 40 per cent of paediatric cases are correctable, such as by the treatment of ear drum perforations, chronic ear infection and wax impaction. Even more is preventable.”

One of the main issues, he said, related to manpower, with only 16 ear, nose and throat surgeons and one audiologist in the country, compared to more than 600 specialist surgeons and 2,500 audiologists in the UK.

Mr Clark said: “We try to avoid simply turning up and performing lots of operations and then leaving. The emphasis is on sustainable training of the local surgeons and trainees in safe and practical techniques.”

Mr Clark added new underwear had also been collected and taken over for families.

“The problems of the last decades have left numerous orphans and families blighted by HIV. Fixing apparently simple problems can have a dramatic effect,” he said.