Over 40 orthopaedic surgeries were conducted at Guyana’s premier public health institution – the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation – during the past weekend. This represented an exceedingly astounding feat since, according to Head of Surgery within the hospital’s Orthopaedic Department, Dr. David Samaroo, based on hospital records such an undertaking was never before accomplished.
In fact, at a press conference yesterday at the Resource Centre of the public hospital, he revealed that the GPHC has only been able to complete as many as 45 such surgeries during the last three-and-a-half to four years. But this past week, the unthinkable was achieved when 47 orthopaedic surgeries with 53 joint replacements were successfully completed.
Dr. Samaroo disclosed that the surgical accomplishment was made possible through the hospital’s collaboration with a voluntary organisation called ‘Operation Walk’, which conducts free joint replacement surgeries in developing countries around the world.
Yesterday’s press conference was graced by a few members of the visiting Operation Walk team, including one of its founder members, Dr. Paul Khanuja, an adult hip and knee replacement surgeon in the Orthopaedic Department of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.
Speaking of the work of Operation Walk, Dr. Khanuja said, “It is a tremendous effort, and this is our ninth trip that we have done internationally, and we have to say that it is one of our most successful trips, and part of what made it that way is the efforts here in Georgetown.”
Other members of the visiting team at yesterday’s press conference were Co-founder Maria Khanuja; Dr. Gurpal Bhuller and Dr. Charles Reuland.
According to Dr. Samaroo, although it took a number of years for measures to be put in place to concretise the partnership with Operation Walk, the eventual results materialised within a matter of days. The collaboration, he recalled, was endorsed by not only Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Brigadier George Lewis, but both Ministers of Public Health – Ms. Volda Lawrence and Dr. Karen Cummings – at a high level meeting last year.
This of course was a blessing to the GPHC, since there were in excess of 170 registered patients in need of joint replacement surgery, Dr. Samaroo said. He recalled that after being assured of the support from Operation Walk, screening of patients commenced to ascertain those who needed urgent surgery.
“Those patients we started to screen in April of this year, and then we had a second clinic [to screen more patients] in July of this year, and by last week we had brought the number down to about 70,” said Dr. Samaroo.
But joint replacement surgeries are not cheap. Dr. Samaroo disclosed yesterday that such a procedure can cost a patient as much as $1.5 to $2 million at private institution right here in Guyana. He however noted that in order to subsidise the cost of these expensive implants, the GPHC would usually ask patients to pay to the hospital’s Finance Department a sum of $200,000.
However, with the support from Operation Walk, which benefits from donations from generous supporters and donors, Dr. Samaroo said that the patients who underwent the recent surgeries did so at no cost.
“Those patients who would have initially paid $200,000 and were awaiting surgery by local surgeons, those persons are going to be actually refunded,” said Dr. Samaroo.
To facilitate the bulk of surgeries at the weekend, Dr. Samaroo said that the institution not only procured extra beds, but also ensured that those eligible were given an early release date and early follow-up dates. Patients required no more than two and a half days after being operated on, Dr. Samaroo told media operatives yesterday.
While joint replacement patients are not likely to develop complications immediately after surgery, Dr. Samaroo did reveal that infection can occur, and is known to be the most troubling challenge.
“There are no reported complications thus far, but for orthopaedic surgeries, complications can actually take place within one year after,” said Dr. Samaroo, as he revealed that patients will benefit from their first post-operative follow-up clinic as soon as Saturday, November 3. Patients will, however, have access to local medical experts earlier should they develop any complications ahead of other planned post-op clinics, which will be conducted by both local and overseas experts.
With support from Operation Walk, the GPHC has been able to considerably reduce its backlog of patients in need of orthopaedic surgery. The number, according to Orthopaedic Surgeon and Senior Registrar, Dr. Kaaleshwar Ramcharran, now stands at about 90 patients on the hospital’s waiting list.
“With this organisation coming on board now, we hope that we will be able to do surgeries like these on a regular basis and try to get some of these patients pain-free and walking again,” Dr. Ramcharran said.
Meanwhile, CEO Lewis, at yesterday’s press conference, also did not waste time in commending the support from Operation Walk, even as he noted that this represents yet another strategic partnership the hospital has been able to forge.
“GPHC collaborates with a number of local and international organisations with a view to improving health care and the services that we offer our patients,” said Brigadier Lewis.
As he extended an open invitation to the Operation Walk representatives, Lewis added, “More importantly, we want to say thank you for the joy that you would have brought to the faces of those patients…they, more than us, are appreciative of what you did. You brought mobility back to some of them, and I am certain that with the wonderful job that you did, even their families will benefit, and I say the Guyanese society as a whole will benefit too.”
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