Liberia: MSF Opens Pediatric Surgery Program

LIBERIA 2018 © Åsa Nyquist Brandt/MSF

MONROVIA, LIBERIA/NEW YORK, JANUARY 31, 2018—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a pediatric surgical program at Bardnesville Junction Hospital (BJH) on the outskirts of Liberia's capital Monrovia on Jan. 11, with a goal of making surgical care more available for children in the country.

MSF established BJH as a pediatric hospital in 2015 as the West African Ebola epidemic made it more difficult for Liberia's medical community to meet health care needs. The facility is now expanding its medical services to include emergency and non-emergency surgery for children.

BJH already serves as a training site for Liberian nurses, and the surgical program is intended to provide practical training opportunities for Liberian surgical residents and nurse anesthetists.

"The needs for pediatric surgery here are extensive, and the program has been quite busy in its first few weeks," said Dr. John Lawrence, an MSF pediatric surgeon at BJH and the president of the board of MSF-USA. "Because there has not been a facility with a dedicated pediatric surgical team here before, there are a wide variety of cases that require pediatric surgery."

Some of the first surgeries performed at BJH included hernia repairs, a laparotomy (abdominal surgery) for a child with an intestinal condition called intussusception, and the draining of a liver abscess for a three-year-old boy.

Pediatric surgeons typically have expertise in operating on children with congenital problems or pediatric diseases that general surgeons are unfamiliar with, Dr. Lawrence said. Pediatric anesthesia also requires specific training and expertise.

"I find it extremely rewarding to be a pediatric surgeon in this context, with a highly dedicated team of hospital personnel from Liberia and beyond," Dr. Lawrence said. "We plan to continue and broaden the scope of our surgical activities in the coming months and years."