Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a paediatric surgical programme at Bardnesville Junction Hospital (BJH) on the outskirts of Liberia's capital Monrovia on 11 January, with a goal of making surgical care more available for children in the country.
MSF established BJH as a paediatric hospital in 2015, as the West African Ebola epidemic made it more difficult for Liberia's medical community to meet healthcare 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 programme is intended to provide practical training opportunities for Liberian surgical residents and nurse anaesthetists.
"The needs for paediatric surgery here are extensive, and the programme has been quite busy in its first few weeks," said Dr John Lawrence, an MSF paediatric surgeon at BJH and the president of the board of MSF in the USA.
"Because there has not been a facility with a dedicated paediatric surgical team here before, there are a wide variety of cases that require paediatric 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.
Paediatric surgeons typically have expertise in operating on children with congenital problems or paediatric diseases that general surgeons are unfamiliar with, Dr Lawrence said. Paediatric anaesthesia also requires specific training and expertise.
"I find it extremely rewarding to be a paediatric 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."