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Officials Frustrate Free Surgery For Cameroonians 

By Rolantine Nwanjang & Stephane Talla Nebott*

Officials of the Douala Ports Authority have frustrated efforts by a team of American surgeons to offer free surgery to needy Cameroonian patients. An eleven-man team of surgeons from the US led by Cameroonian born but US-based surgeon, Dr. Sixthus Atabong, could not continue a programmed weeklong operation at the Buea Regional Hospital Annex due to lack of equipment.

A US surgeon attending to a patient

The equipment that had earlier been shipped to Cameroon for the exercise, were held at the port for reasons unknown to The Post. One of the US surgeons, Richard George, expressed frustration that they cannot have access to the supplies they brought to help patients. Hear him: "We are facing a great problem with our supplies still stuck at the port. So, many of the supplies we brought from the United States to treat patients, we don’t have access to".

On some of the most common cases they have faced in the course of their operations so far, Dr. Richard George disclosed that they have encountered more patients with hernia. He noted that they are carrying out a similar exercise in a clinic in Muyuka.

Some 120 patients had earlier been screened and 60 enlisted for surgery, which effectively started Monday, July 13. As at Tuesday, July 14, some 20 patients had been operated upon, according to Dr. Vincent Verla, the Anaesthetist at the Regional Hospital assisting the foreign doctors.

But, according to him, due to lack of equipment to operate some cases considered serious, the medic had to suspend operation and go negotiate with the ports authorities for the release of the equipment. The delay in releasing the medical equipment, it is believed, may hinder the entire exercise and frustrate patients that had spent money doing pre-operation tests, hoping to get free operations.

The Director of the Buea Regional Hospital, Dr Victor Mbome Njie, had, Tuesday, July 14, expressed hope that patients in the Municipality would get free surgery. "The surgeons arrived in Cameroon on Saturday, July 11, and held a brief meeting the following day with doctors of the Regional Hospital, where they reviewed the patients concerned and divided them into categories for easy coordination," he said.

The Initiative
Meanwhile, the Hospital Director stated that Dr Atabong, who is an orthopaedic surgeon in America, took the initiative because while he (Atabong) was in the US, his father had an amputation back home in Cameroon and there was no specialist surgeon to attend to him. "So, he decided to take a bold step to bring some of his colleagues to Cameroon in 2008 to help his people. They did mostly community medical services last year," Dr. Mbome said.

Speaking to the media, Dr Atabong said he grew in Munyenge, Muyuka before he went to the US for studies. "I thought of coming back to where I was born to help the people. I came here last year and saw that people needed help," he said.

However, Dr Verla said there are some complicated cases that can only be done in Douala. He explained that the American team has come to help those who could not afford to pay their surgical treatment. Going by him, the hospital will continue to take care of the patients after the departure of the specialists.

Patients Speak
One of the patients, Isaac Mbi Tanga, who benefitted from the operation said: "I spent FCFA 300 for card, FCFA 600 for registration and FCFA 8500 at the laboratory, making a total of FCFA 9400 instead of about FCFA 70.000 or FCFA 80.000 I would have spent. I am very grateful to the doctors." Another beneficiary, Mama Grace Chie, could not suppress her joy. "I am very happy because I have been relieved from pains. I really thank God for sending these doctors to help us. I hope they will continue to spread their help to other parts of the country," she said.

*(UB Journalism Students On Internship).

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