ICES and The Right to Heal supported the case for making essential surgery a global health priority to an audience of the House of Parliament in London on April 3rd, 2014.
The All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) on Global Health and on Population and Development and Reproductive Health joined forces to host a panel on essential surgery and a screening of The Right To Heal. The Right to Heal is the documentary by ICES co-founder Jaymie Ang Henry that puts the spotlight on the people who are sentenced to death and disability due to a lack of access to safe and timely basic surgical care – and those who are working to change this.
The session was opened by Lord Bernard Ribeiro, vice chair of the APPG on Global Health, as he welcomed the audience to the Houses of Parliament he stated, “We’re here today to talk about surgery, not as a luxury, but as something that changes lives.”
The panel included:
• Dr Jaymie Ang Henry, Director and Executive Producer of ‘The Right to Heal’ and Executive Director, ICES • Mr Michael Cotton, Chairman of the Board, ICES • Dr Iain Wilson, Past President, Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland and Board Member, Lifebox Foundation.
The room was full of leaders in the field – the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), The George Institute, Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), Lifebox, and The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, among other distinguished guests.
The panelist introduced the philosophy behind the making of The Right to Heal, which included a discussion about why there is global inequity in access to essential surgery and explored some of the reasons for this phenomenon.
The statements that followed made a compelling case as to why the Global community must make essential surgery part of the public health dialogue and a public health and funding priority. Among them:
“People are dying unnecessarily, and with great suffering,” said Michael Cotton, surgeon, co-founder and chair of the International Collaboration for Essential Surgery (ICES). “It’s not necessarily complicated or expensive to deliver essential surgery, it’s a cost-effective, one-off intervention with life-long results. These are the things that really need to be done.”
The panel facilitated questions and a discussion that resulted in the following points of consensus:
• Education and training is vital for providers in LMICs who are already performing surgeries; regardless of whether they are clinical officers, doctors in training or other community workers. • There is a need to drive the Essential Surgery agenda forward and make it take its right of place in the Public Health forum amongst the sustainable development goals (SDG’s). • There is a need for integrated ethical training for medical electives in overseas environments, where there is opportunity to develop clinical/surgical skills. • Raising awareness about essential surgery as a form of primary care in communities afflicted by shortages is critical to increasing access to care. • Governments have a responsibility to be receptive to change and to acknowledge essential surgery as being necessary to meeting the Public Health agenda for non-communicable diseases.
The message of the film needs to be carried forward and out into the wider public domain – Dr. Henry discussed initiatives that have already successfully done so, as well other future plans.
Lord Riberio concluded the discussion, by stating that “there is a need to take this message forward and that there needs to be a plan to enable this to happen”. With the MDGs expiring in 2015 it’s a vital time to get surgery on the international agenda and Lord Riberio called for support from the Lancet Commission and the British Medical Association (BMA).
The message is clear; a lack of access to safe surgery is a global health crisis, but like tackling polio or HIV, increasing surgical capacity not an impossible undertaking. ICES is working to contribute the solution through increasing awareness, education of policy makers, research and innovations in surgical training models.