Five billion people worldwide have no access to affordable and safe surgery and anaesthesia. That must change, says Incision (International Student Surgical Network), a worldwide student organisation that is dedicated to making surgery accessible to everyone. Sixth-year medical student, Darja Sempf, is in the process of setting up a Maastricht branch of the organisation together with the national working group.
For a long time, surgery was a neglected area when it came to access to medical care. “It is often thought that the costs are higher than the benefits,” says Sempf. “But research has shown that this is incorrect.” A surgeon can mean a lot. Every year, 18 million deaths could be prevented by surgery. “For example with regard to births. Here, it is something beautiful, in developing countries it is a hazardous event for both mother and child; 500 thousand women die every year during labour because of the lack of surgical aid. Let’s say a birth takes too long or the mother haemorrhages profusely and it can't be stopped. That is when the doctor takes over here, that is not possible over there.”
Surgery can also mean a lot for the prevention of handicaps. “Things like operations after a traffic accident or in the case of burns. But also mending a cleft lip. Here, such a procedure is carried out immediately after birth, in developing countries this is not possible or people simply don't have the money. This causes problems for the child when eating and drinking.”
Global Surgery has become a concept in the medical world. The Lancet has even had a special committee to deal with it since 2015. There is still a lot to be done though; there is a great lack of infrastructure (hospitals, operating rooms), experts (surgeons, anaesthetists, operating nurses) and materials.
Incision focuses on keeping the discussion on-going within the medical world, creating awareness for the problem in the new generation of doctors and doing research into how things can be improved. “For example, what is the best way to train people in developing countries where maybe there isn't even a medical faculty? Or how can you operate without electricity?”
The Dutch working group regularly organises activities. “Such as a course for medical students who go abroad for internships. What do they need to know before they leave? How well prepared are you for extreme circumstances? On Tuesday, 15 January, we have our first event in Maastricht, which we are organising together with Studium Generale and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM); a debate on access to health care.”
Debat café Access to Health Care, Tuesday, 15 January, Dominicanen bookstore, entrance is free, starts: 20.00hrs.