Horder Healthcare was delighted to support hand therapist Pascalle Smith when she recently joined an ongoing project to Sierra Leone, to help develop a hand surgery reconstruction unit. Money donated by the organisation was put towards providing teaching materials and splinting equipment for workshops and teaching on the programme.

Sierra Leone

Pascalle explains: “Sierra Leone lies on the coast of West Africa with a population of 7 million people, and is a country of tropical scenery with low income and poverty.  Since 2010, The British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH) and ReSurge Africa have collaborated to develop the first reconstruction unit in the country at the Holy Spirit Hospital, Makeni.

“In March this year, I was lucky to join the ongoing project. The visit aimed to provide an education programme to medical staff, therapists and nurses on improving care of patients with hand trauma. The team consisted of myself, a hand therapist, two orthopaedic consultants Steve Hodgson and Jonathan Jones and local reconstructive surgeon Abdulai Jalloh. 

“Our visit consisted of an intense four days of teaching at three locations, teaching groups of 30-40 medical staff. As a day course the programme was an introduction and overview of upper limb trauma. We were encouraging education and the empowering of local medical staff to provide a future cascade of learning, mentoring and knowledge. This encourages a sustainable project for Sierra Leone to develop health care for the future.

“Landing in the capital city Freetown, was somewhat of a home coming for me having grown up in Africa. The familiar heat, humidity, a wave of smells of dusty and smoky wood. The hustle and bustle as crowds of people offer to carry your bags to a taxi for a small tip.

“Our first venue was three hours east of Freetown at Makeni. The Holy Spirit Hospital (HSH) was established by Dr Patrick Turay. Despite many atrocities in the last decade such as Ebola it has continued to develop and expand with the help of the Italian Diocese and sheer determination. The Holy Spirit Hospital now has 70 beds, an outpatients department, x-ray, a pharmacy and two operating theatres. Sadly, the physiotherapy department was recently destroyed by fire but there is however a new development with plans for physiotherapy, pathology labs and a burns unit.

“The second hospital we visited was an old rural leprosy hospital called Masanga, a 45-minute drive from Makeni. It is a beautiful drive through green tropical woodland, villages and cropland (mainly potatoes). It is now the training centre for the country’s surgical community health officers. They deliver much of the emergency surgical cover in a country lacking in medically trained surgeons. I was pleased to discover that a new School for Physiotherapy nearby in Tonkolili has recently opened. The BSc programme has been developed in support with national and international stakeholders and currently has its first cohort of 17 students in their first year. This will greatly improve the number of qualified physiotherapists of which there are currently only seven in the whole country.

“Our final day was at Connaught Hospital, the principle referral hospital and training hospital of Sierra Leone in Freetown. The city sits on a coastal peninsula overlooking one of the world’s largest natural harbours. Long stretches of beaches lie beneath a colourful mountainous scenery of greenery, new constructions and corrugated sheeted shanty towns.

“Hand therapy was a small part of the overall teaching programme but I was able to encourage and highlight the importance of working as a team. Surgery is often complex following trauma but this is the start of a patient’s journey. Rehabilitation with motivation, confidence building and education will enhance surgery.

“Each day of our teaching was brimming with enthusiasm and a genuine keenness to learn. Despite limited resources such as equipment and internet access, we all worked together to explore ideas and modify treatments.

“The visit was very beneficial and successful with the first Sierra Leone reconstruction unit opening in the next few months. In the future there is scope to further enhance collaborative, sustainable education and working in Sierra Leone.”

For further information please visit http://resurgeafrica.org 

Pascalle Smith

Pascalle is an accredited hand therapist and has worked as a specialist hand therapist for 17 years, following graduation as an occupational therapist from Southampton University.

Pascalle has a particular interest in hand function and activities of daily living. This includes formulating treatment plans to meet the individual needs of the patients. 

Page last reviewed on 25/06/2019

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