Since 2009, Graham Watson, the charity’s Chairman, has been travelling to Sri Lanka to teach surgeons modern stone surgery. Instead of using a scalpel to remove stones from the kidneys and ureter he has been teaching them how to use endoscopes (telescopes used inside the body) to visualise the stones and then break the stones up and remove them in fragments.
He found such a huge patient load there that he decided to take surgeons, who were training in the UK, with him to Sri Lanka to give them a highly concentrated training session.
Known as the Stonebuster Initiative, it is an intensive hands-on training course for doctors and surgeons involved in the field of kidney stones, aimed at achieving four goals by:
- Providing UK doctors and surgeons with the equivalent of six months experience In just a few days
- Training local Sri Lankan doctors and surgeons at the same time
- Ensuring that UK patients will benefit from the experience gained by their UK surgeons; and
- Establishing connections between both groups of doctors and surgeons, which will stand them in good stead throughout their professional lives.
Why Sri Lanka
- The course cost is considerably less expensive than one held in the UK.
- There is too little equipment and too many patients.
- Stone disease is rampant, causing much pain and interference with kidney function.
- The variety of types of stones experienced increases surgeons’ skills.
- Children as well as adults await operations.
Although the Sri Lankan surgeons are highly competent, Sri Lanka has lagged behind India and other countries in the area because of its civil war. The Trustees felt that a relatively minor assistance in terms of medical equipment would prove timely in helping Sri Lanka emerge from its recent problems and would allow its citizens to be treated in a way that is far less painful and would enable them to return to work more quickly.
Each course is of eight to ten days duration, with five days spent in operating theatres. The current cost, including flights, is in the region of £2,500. Several courses on training percutaneous (needle puncturing rather than cutting the skin) stone surgery have been held with ‘UK trainees’ participating on each course. Each ‘UK trainee’ is requested to raise funds, through donations and initiatives in their own locality, towards the cost of their airfare, accommodation and expenses, with the Trust subsiding a maximum of 20% of the total cost. In this way, it is hoped that the patients will benefit even more as equipment can also be provided where it is urgently needed.
These courses were initially held in the capital, Colombo, but since 2012 training courses have also been held in centres such as Batticaloa, which is in the south west of the island where they were still recovering from the effects of the tsunami, and Kandy in the centre of this island. Between 30 – 50+ patients, including young children, are treated on each visit. Feedback from the courses has shown that as all four goals are being met, 2014 will be the first year that two courses have been planned.
Since 2012, Medi Tech Trust has been donating numerous items of medical equipment, with the aim of encouraging non-invasive surgical operations. Two large pallet loads were shipped to Sri Lanka for use at Batticaloa General Hospital. A further pallet destined for Kandy General Hospital was shipped over in January 2014.
Medi Tech Trust also sponsored a Sri Lankan medical equipment manufacturer to develop a Lithoclast at a third of the usual cost. In appreciation, this machine is called the Stonebuster.
A Thulium Laser machine
- Less blood loss
- Quick recovery time
- Less postoperative care
- Short cauterization time in BPH treatment
- Precise surgery
- No deep penetration
- Safe operation
- Excellent haemostasis [stops bleeding]
- Treatment of patients under anticoagulant
- Less damage to endoscopes and instruments
- Reusable and disposable fibres
- Colour neutral safety glasses
- Multi-disciplinary for minimally invasive surgery
Some charity supporters have already started to raise funds so that Medi Tech Trust can purchase an expensive though vital piece of equipment for use in such operations. Known as a C-Arm portable X-ray machine, these are currently in very short supply.
This machine can then be permanently loaned to one of the Sri Lanka medical centres so that their surgeons can continue to practise and improve their skills after the UK doctors and surgeons have returned to their own hospitals.