In January 2016, The Rotary Club of Cardiff West provided funding for a surgical team to visit a hospital in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, for 2 weeks to carry out operations and to demonstrate modern surgical techniques to the resident doctors. The funding provided by the Club was matched by an equal amount from the Rotary Foundation by means of a District Grant.
Mr Tom Dehn is a retired consultant surgeon who, since his retirement, has been taking teams of volunteers to countries where provision of healthcare is limited. The team has visited India on 4 occasions and Uganda on 5 occasions.
The team consists of Tom Dehn, one other surgeon, two anaesthetists and a theatre sister. They all give their services voluntarily, those who are still working have to give up their holidays to join the team. They have to pay their own expenses, their only outside source of funding is from Rotary Clubs.
In January 2016, the team visited the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, for 2 weeks. This is the tea-growing region of India, where the provision of healthcare is very limited. The team flew to Delhi on 8th January, then on to Bagdogra and then by taxi to Siliguri. They spent the first week carrying out general surgery and the second week was spent at the cancer unit of the hospital. The team carried out 46 surgical procedures in the 2 weeks that they were there, bearing in mind the aftercare available at the hospital following the team’s departure.
The most important part of the visit is that the team members are able to demonstrate modern techniques to the doctors and nurses in the hospital. This area is very remote and the healthcare workers have a great workload, so they are not able to attend courses, visiting surgeons are their only source of education. The visit by Tom Dehn and his team will indirectly help a very large number of people in that area.
Hospitals in rural areas are very basic and working conditions are very different to those in UK. Electricity supplies are intermittent and daily power-cuts are common. The photograph below shows an operation being completed using the light for a mobile phone. Although the team take some supplies with them, they often find that the most commonly used instruments are not available.
The team returned to UK on 22nd January. They are planning another visit towards the end of 2016.