By Libya Herald Reporters.
Tripoli, 14 November 2015:
A specialist American paediatric cardiac team is currently on its third Libyan visit this year conducting . . .[restrict]life-saving operations at the Tobruk Medical Centre.
“On arrival we were greeted by two babies, both around three kilos who were in a very bad way” team leader Bill Novick told the Libya Herald, “They required urgent surgery”.
By yesterday Novick and his US and Libyan colleagues had carried out 19 operations. “Before we leave our hope is to reach 40 children” he said. To achieve this everyone was working flat out, often not finishing in the theatre until 10pm.
Novick, a professor of surgery at the University of Tennessee founded the William Novick Global Cardiac Alliance in 1993. In the past 22 years he and his volunteer teams have worked in more than 30 Developing countries and treated approaching 8,000 children for a wide range of heart ailments. The normal practice is for the charity’s team to focus on a country for at least three years with between two and four visits every year.
“We have been working in Libya since March 2012” said Novick, “Between then and June 2014 we operated on 222 children at the Benghazi Medical Centre”.
By that time the city’s Benina Airport had been closed by fighting and when the US medical team came to leave, they had to fly out via Labraq.
In August last year, Novick said he was asked by health minister Reda Al-Menshawi to come back and continue his work in either Beida or Tobruk.
“ I came in October and spent five days looking at both towns but decided Tobruk was better suited. We made our first return trip in February this year and came again in May. So this is now our third trip this year. Next year we hope to double the effort and come in six times”.
He added that if Benghazi became more secure and the airport reopened, he hoped to restart his surgical programme at the Benghazi Medical Centre.
As it is, eleven staff from the BMC, including three three doctors, three anaesthesia technicians and five ICU nurses were working in Tobruk with his surgical team.
“ I have nothing negative to say about the ministry of health.” said Novick, “Because the situation in Libya is so chaotic, I am not sure how they are functioning at all. They have been trying to help us solve problems and making sure that we have what we need and are comfortable”.
He said that while those members of his team who had not been before to Libya were surprised to find Tobruk far quieter than they had expected, Novick himself was pleased to see that Tobruk Medical Centre had expanded its facilities.
“ The hospital has now finished an Intensive Care Unit with six beds and a very good size operating room specifically for heart surgery”
Novick praised the Libyan medical people with whom he was working, but added “They are very disturbed with the politicians and power brokers and blame them for the additional stresses on the system. Our Libyan colleagues are resilient but they are wondering when things will finally settle down and the country behave in a positive manner”.
He said that they were excited that his heart team was back in Libya for another visit. However it was realised by both staff and parents that, within the limited time available, not all the children with heart conditions could undergo the surgery they needed.