Irish medical staff set for joint operations in Vietnam

Ten orthopaedic surgeons, six anaesthetists, four operating theatres, one military base in Hanoi — just some of the logistics involved in organising the kind of joint replacement blitz the NTPF could only dream of.

Over the course of one week in May, a 60-strong team of Irish medical personnel will travel to the Vietnamese capital to carry out joint replacement operations on circa 50 patients while at the same time providing training to local surgeons.

The effort is under the auspices of Operation Walk, established about 20 years ago by American orthopaedic surgeon Larry Dorr.

This latest venture, however, has a distinctly Gaelic flavour and makes history as the first all-Irish Operation Walk, and the first ever complete Operation Walk from outside the USA.

David Mulcahy, orthopaedic surgeon at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, said he had been inspired to take part after hearing a presentation by Mr Dorr at an orthopaedic meeting.

“He has been trying for a couple of years to attract a more international element so it looks like Ireland will be the first outside of the States,” Mr Mulcahy said.

The Irish team needs to fundraise €250,000 for the mission which should see around 65 joint replacements involving 50 patients.

Travelling personnel will pay for themselves but €125,000 still needs to be raised.

Mr Mulcahy said the group will bring their own implants, thanks to the generosity of two medical device companies, as well as any necessary supplies, rather than drawn on the resources of the local hospital. Upon arrival in Hanoi, the group will set up in a military hospital where four operating theatres will be made available to them for a week.

Mr Mulcahy said surgeons will operate in pairs with a strong emphasis on teaching local surgeons.

“Vietnam will have a huge demand in the future,” Mr Mulcahy said. “They have virtually no joint replacement service in the country. Of a population of 90m, about 700/800 undergo joint replacements annually. Here at home, about 5,000 patients have joints replaced out of a population of 4.5m.”

In Vietnam, surgery costs approximately three years wages.

A combination of increasing life expectancy, dietary habits, and hereditary conditions has resulted in a large number of the Vietnamese population suffering from crippling arthritis and requiring hip and knee replacements.

Operation Walk will concentrate on those aged 30-60 who require replacement joints so that they can get back into the workforce and provide for their families.

Members of the public interested in helping with this initiative can make a donation via www.idonate.ie/operation-walk-ireland, or through the Operation Walk Ireland Facebook Page.

Alternatively, buy a table at a charity lunch in the Conrad Hotel, Dublin on Friday or donate an item for the charity auction or raffle.


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