By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
The corridors of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in Monrovia have been busy this week as men with prostate-related urinary and urological complications get registered ahead of the arrival this week, for free surgeries, of a team of Spanish urologists from a non-for-profit organization called: “Surgery for All”.
By Monday, more than 60 patients had been registered and the urge to see the team in Liberia was visible on their faces.
Because the team will be in Liberia for just one week, beginning August 7, Sunday, August 8 will be patients’ screening, after which surgeries will start for those needing them.
“Surgery for All” has conducted similar interventions in a number of places, including Guatemala and countries in Southern Africa.
The head of the mission, Dr. Jose Rubio Briones, told this contributor their organization has already trained two Liberian nurses in the city of Valencia, where the group is based, and as part of their stay in Liberia, they will be doing some more training for nurses and doctors in general urological courses at the hospital.
“I’m happy teaching,” he said, explaining that his organization’s quest to provide training opportunities to desired people in places like Liberia is against a belief that in Spain “we say that it is better to teach fishing than to fish for people; we teach people from the Third World, trying not to go there and just operate and come back here because that’s not the way to go.”
Also at the end of the Monrovia operation, they intend to select at least one surgical doctor from the hospital “to come here to Valencia and teach him those surgical techniques we are going to do this week.”
The coming of the surgical mission has been delayed due to the pandemic.
The organization has already secured and stored at the hospital materials and equipment worth more than 50,000 Euros —- that is around $60,000 — for the Monrovia intervention.
Post-war Liberia lacks specialists including urologists and many see the coming of the team as a blessing.
Dr. Rubio Briones emphasized that as part of the understanding surrounding the training opportunities the group is offering nurses and doctors at the St. Joseph’s Hospital, those benefiting must agree to serve the hospital for at least five years following the training.
“We oblige them to sign a fidelity contract with the hospital; so they have to be working for that hospital at least five years [after] our teaching and program to avoid people leaving that project once they are skilled for those surgeries,” he said.
This, he said, is “to ensure that our effort is worthwhile; in other parts of Africa, it has worked, sometimes it hasn’t; it depends on the people themselves.
Asked if the mission charges patients for surgeries, he replied: “No, no, no, no. We charge nothing; we charge zero dollar.”
Dr. Rubio Briones explained that on the contrary, even though the group is small and does not have enough money, in the event the hospital identifies poor patients who are not able to pay the hospital’s charge, the group will assist them with some of the charges.
“We try to help the poor people not to leave the mission if they’re going to go and pay,” he said, and so once the social workers of the hospital have selected those poor people who for some reason cannot afford to pay the charge, “we can aid them; we can pay some for them. Unfortunately we are a little NGO and we are not very rich and so we cannot pay for everybody”
The seasoned Spanish urologist stated: “We understand the [St.Joseph’s] hospital has to charge some money because they have to pay their staff, and for materials, the drugs, and everything,”
A nurse coordinating the registration process ahead of the team’s arrival was seen on Monday asking patients to each go and pay US$250 for surgery — which is what the hospital is charging.
However, a notice about the surgical mission which was taken to and read out in even places of worship weeks ago had clarified that no patients would be turned away for their inability to pay the hospital’s fees.
Many patients said they were hopeful that this will remain the position of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital’s administration regarding patients who will not afford the US$250 charge.