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Jess' Blog No.4 - Day 1 Part 2 Update

By Jessica Wilkes-Reading

Jess' Blog No.4 - Day 1 Part 2 Update

Wesleyan's CR and Charity Coordinator Jessica Wilkes-Reading continues to write about her experiences in Ethiopia.

Today she gives more details of her visit to St Paul's Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa.

Like most people, I've visited hospitals many times, both as part of my work and for family and personal reasons and encountered busy waiting rooms and long queues.

However, the amount of people waiting to be seen at the maxilliofacial unit at St Paul's Hospital was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Up to a hundred procedures a day are carried out, ranging from simple consultations and tooth extractions through to major surgery for tumour removals.

I soon realised this country is really making the best of the equipment and people they have as they try to deliver a safe and reliable service to the population they serve. However, what holds them back is access to equipment and a reliable supply chain, especially for spare parts that will keep the equipment functioning.

For example, we visited the x-ray department but found there were no x-ray films, and it could be weeks before they get any more. Imagine how many conditions go undetected, how many patients go untreated, how many lives are lost because of not having a simple thing like x-ray films that every hospital and dental practice in the UK takes for granted. The need for equipment out here is huge.

The staff though, do an incredible job with the resources they have. The maxillofacial interns here are on a much more accelerated learning plan than in the UK. Rather than completing dental training then going onto medical degree, the interns in maxillofacial surgery finish the dental degree and then start to learn on the job with supervision.

An inspiration

Dr Birke is someone who has fast become a huge inspiration to me. In her 30s, she's responsible for the whole maxillofacial department, which includes teaching, operating, researching, everything. She is amazing.

She spoke to me at length about the increases in facial cancers in young women. Doctors here can't seem to find out why this is such a major issue, so Dr Birke is working on securing funding to do some research, which will be supported by the Provost of St Paul's Zerrihun Abebe.

We presented her with textbooks and a piece of equipment and surgical handpieces that Wesleyan has helped to fund. There is some real basic assistance and resources people in the UK can provide and I'm sure many people and business back home will want to help.

Our next stop will be the city of Mekelle and a visit to the university and Ayder Referral Hospital.

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