Palestine Anesthesia Teaching Mission-First year of operation 2011
Our first volunteer entered Palestine in January 2011and a total of 7 volunteers have completed assignments there in 2011.
The volunteers have come from Canada, the United States, Sweden and Australia. The volunteers each spent approximately one month in Palestine. They worked in three hospitals, Makkased Hospital in East Jerusalem, Rafidia Hospital in Nablus and Al-Ahli hospital in Hebron. The volunteers spent most of their time doing hands on teaching in the three hospitals. They also did some formal teaching to all of the residents one day per week. Each volunteer taught a section of the curriculum usually in an area of their expertise. In effect we instituted a formal teaching program in anesthesia in Palestine, an experience which the residents in training had never had before. There are 22 residents in training among the three hospitals mentioned. Although there is no formal training in Palestine the trainees enter anesthesia having completed three or four years of general duties and therefore they are quite skilled physicians. The equipment is mediocre at best and does not meet the standards that we enjoy in the developed world. The safety of our volunteers is our first priority. We encountered no safety issues involving volunteers in Palestine this past year. We plan to extend out teaching mission to Gaza once we have firmly established our role in East Jerusalem and the West Bank
The funding for this program was provided by an organisation in the Emirates (SYS) and from the outset we have a signed agreement with SYS to fund this project for at least 4 years. SYS had an office in Ramallah which handled the logistics for the volunteers upon arrival in Palestine. In June of this year we were informed that the SYS office in Ramallah would no longer be providing logistical support and that in future we would be dealing directly with SYS in the Emirates. When this transition occurred we were assured that the funding would continue but we would have to deal with a new set of rules. In effect they would not dispense any funds until the volunteer had completed their assignments. They also asked us to provide a huge amount of documentation on each individual including copies of passports. We had plans in place to send 4 anesthesiologists to Argentina for the World Congress and we had plans to send some trainees for further training in North America as part of our development plan. Unfortunately we did not receive any further funding from our funding source in the Emirates and our last volunteer for 2011 went to Palestine without financial support and essentially volunteered not only his time but also was self funded.
We received no further communications from our funding source and were therefore forced to put a hold on the Program in November 2011. This was unfortunate because we already had commitments from 6 volunteers to go to Palestine in 2012. In the meantime three of the Palestinian residents were successful in their applications to present their work at the World Congress. Based on our original contract with our funding source, we agreed to fund any resident who had an abstract accepted to the congress. Even though the funding was discontinued we felt obligated to support the residents to present their work in Argentina in March. The estimated cost of funding all three residents to the world congress was in the region of $12,000.00. We had considerable difficulty finding the funds to support the residents.
Fortunately an anonymous donor from Canada has agreed to support continuation of the Program and to help fund the three residents to go to Argentina. It is very difficult to make volunteer plans at such short notice therefore we expect the next volunteer to go to Palestine in April 2012 at the earliest. We anticipate that once the program is re-established we will send at most, 6 volunteers to Palestine each year.
In summary the Palestine Anesthesia Teaching Mission has had a very successful first year of operation despite the funding issues and all parties involved are very keen for us to continue this program. A total of 7 volunteers taught in the operating rooms in East Jerusalem and the West B. We were very disappointed that the original funding group from the Emirates reneged on their commitment without notice or explanation. We were very fortunate to find another donor very recently, thereby allowing us to continue the Program. We are extremely grateful to our anonymous donor for making it possible for us to continue this program. We are also indebted to our volunteers for the sacrifices they made to teach our discipline in Palestine.
BT Finucane MB FRCA FRCPC
Palestine Anesthesia Training Mission