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Hospital medics’ African assignment

26 March 2013

Health Care

Three clinicians from Southend University Hospital’s prestigious eye unit have recently returned from war-torn Sierra Leone, where they passed on their expertise to help develop local services.

Consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Niral Karia, his specialist colleague Dr Eldridge Thompson and optometrist Liz Agrippa travelled to Yonibana, three hours' drive from the capital Freetown, to help develop primary care services established by the Better Lives Foundation.

Mr Karia explained: "The country is still recovering from civil war and there is no health infrastructure.

"We saw lots of patients with glaucoma and cataracts and were the first clinicians to operate in the hospital built by the charity."

The trio travelled with a consignment of medical equipment including an old operating microscope no longer used at Southend.

Mr Karia, who was invited by the Foundation to help establish the services, was on his second visit to the West African country.

He said: "Doctors are leaving Sierra Leone because there is no financial incentive to stay, so our main aim is to train nurses and community medical officers to provide primary care for the local population."

The three medics also carried out an exploratory visit to another hospital run by a Norwegian charity at Magburaka, three hours' drive from Yonibana. They hope to return to Sierra Leone early next year.

Mr Karia said: "In addition to providing care and surgery, it is much better to establish a local framework by teaching and training local people to provide their own care."

The consultant is no stranger to overseas aid, having previously taken his expertise to South America, other African countries, India and Burma.

He added: "I have a high regard for the Better Lives Foundation. All the work is done by volunteers who fund their own trips, and all the money raised goes to where it is needed."



With pic: Dr Eldridge Thompson and Liz Agrippa (first left in back row), Mr Niral Karia (far right, back row) in Sierra Leone with colleagues.