Hernia Repair for the Underserved collaborated with Timmy Global Health on a hernia repair mission in October 2013 with the dual focus on providing care to the underserved and fostering sustainability through training and collaboration with local Ecuadorian surgeon partners. This was our second trip to this site in Archidona, a city of 4000 within Napo Province.
Access to quality healthcare in the Amazon Basin is extremely low. The public hospital in Tena, operated and funded by the Ecuadorian government, is consistently understaffed and over capacity. The Timmy Foundation has developed an organized, well-run network providing primary care services to the indigenous, Quichua patient population. Hospital based services are delivered at the private, non-profit Stadler Richter Hospital which provides high quality care and outreach to the poor. While there is modest poverty in this location, these patients have limited access to care due to socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic factors.
Our surgical team was a collaboration between UCLA, Denver Children’s Hospital, and the Timmy Foundation and consisted of three surgeons, three anesthesiologists, one internist and six nurses. Our local partners from the Timmy Foundation arranged in-country logistic support, identified potential patients, partnered with local surgeons and government, and facilitated training.
The team was on site for 6 days with 5 operating days. Over 80 patients were screened and evaluated. 55 operations were performed in Archidona and Dr. Partrick assisted on a complex pediatric case at Tena Hospital. Patients were between 1 and 78 years old and 11 pediatric cases were performed. 30 umbilical, 24 inguinal, 3 recurrent, 2 femoral, and 1 ventral hernias were repaired. There have been no complications reported after 2 months of follow-up with our local surgeon.
Training in Lichtenstein technique and mesh based repairs in Ecuador is different from that in many of our other HRFU sites. The Ecuadorian surgeons are highly skilled, well-trained in tension free technique, and do have access to mesh. Limitations come from diminished availability and quality of mesh and the lack of capacity to care for the burden of disease in the public system. Our training with Dr. Patricio Moretta Suarez and Dr. Jose Llumuca focused on optimizing technique for challenging cases, performing surgery utilizing only local anesthesia, recurrences, and remediation of pain. Dr. Moretta from Quito and Dr. Llumuca from Tena participated in our training collaboration with 17 cases performed together over 2 days.
Fortuitously, the higher complexity of cases selected for our training was better tailored for this circumstance. Our Ecuadorian surgeons felt that it was not feasible to operate under local and were clearly convinced otherwise, doing both scrotal hernias and extraperitoneal ventral repairs under local. Three recurrent hernias all had prior mesh based repairs indicating the utilization of tension free techniques in country. Two large femoral hernia repairs were performed demonstrating modifications to standard Lichtenstein technique to address this anatomy. Two triple neurectomies were performed for coexistent inguinodynia. For both trained surgeons, it was more appropriate for them and helpful to deal with these advanced scenarios.
Providing mesh to our affiliated surgeons would be helpful and allow them to continue operating and teaching with optimal materials. Both surgeons practice in systems to care for the poor and have the ability and desire to train others. The Timmy Foundation’s local coordinators can help to ensure that our mutual goals are met by providing local contact and support to our affiliated surgeons. Both Ecuadorian surgeons “greatly enjoyed the collaboration between the teams and very much look forward to the opportunity to work with Hernia Repair for the Underserved in the future.”
Support and Acknowledgments
The local government of Napo Province and its local public health affiliate Patronato generously extended its hospitality to our team facilitating all governmental, customs, and local logistics. The Timmy Foundation is an incredibly valuable partner with similar goals and vision and was instrumental in ensuring the success of this mission. Covidien Hernia Solutions generously donated all mesh for this trip allowing us to train and operate with some of the highest quality products available. Americares generously provided material and logistic support donating over 1000 pounds of equipment, supplies, and medications making our operations possible. Hernia Repair for the Underserved is immensely grateful to the donors that support our mission to provide the highest quality care to the poor and train others to continue this work. The kindness and concern of all of those that support us made this trip and our other HRFU missions possible. They are without a doubt good for all involved.