Largest charity hospital ship provides free treatment in Togo

A British surgeon from Hertfordshire is one the British medics heading to Togo this week to join a volunteer medical team screening thousands of potential patients.

Dr. Peter McDermott, consultant maxillo-facial surgeon

Consultant maxillo-facial surgeon Peter McDermott is volunteering with the international charity Mercy Ships that runs the world’s largest charity hospital ship, the “Africa Mercy”. The ship provides free healthcare and training to local healthcare workers.

It arrived in Togo in early January and Peter will be part of the team performing the first surgeries on board the ship following the main screening day. He is one of more than 50 British medics volunteering for Mercy Ships in Togo this year.  

It is common for thousands of people to queue looking for treatment on the main screening days and so Mercy Ships also conducts smaller, advance screenings across the country ahead of the ship’s arrival.
Togo was the first country in Africa that Mercy Ships visited in 1990. This is the fifth time the ship is visiting the country.

This year, the volunteer medics on the “Africa Mercy” will perform free surgeries for new patients, as well as follow-up with patients operated on by Mercy Ships during its previous visit in 2010.  During the five month field service, Mercy Ships hopes to provide more than 1,250 free surgeries, 11,000 dental procedures and the training of 900 local representatives.
The “Africa Mercy” has six operating theatres, a laboratory, pharmacy, a 78-bed ward and an outpatient clinic and is staffed by up to 400 volunteers from 40 nations at any one time.
At least 100 people volunteer from the UK each year performing jobs ranging from surgeons and nurses to cooks and engineers.

The 2012 field service in Lomé, Togo, will include the following services: eye surgeries, eye training, maxillo-facial surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, life-changing general surgeries, VVF (vesico-vaginal fistula) surgeries, dental care and basic oral health education and ministering of terminally ill individuals and their families.

Mercy Ships will also help in the capacity building by organising leadership conferences and agriculture training programmes.

It is staffed by an international crew of dedicated volunteers from over 40 nations ranging from seamen, engineers, surgeons, doctors and nurses.  The surgeons onboard perform operations, such as cleft lip and palate, cataract and crossed eye corrections, facial reconstructions, club feet and dental treatments, on children and adults.

Over the last 32 years, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at £530 million and impacting about 2.9 million people.