Dr Professor Peter Dziewulski, consultant burns surgeon at St. Andrews Hospital in Essex, talks about his recent visit to Nepal.
Last month, Dr Dziewulski visited Nepal’s capital Kathmandu to deliver burn teaching and training. “I am very privileged to be able to work in the NHS, to have the opportunity at St Andrews to do great work, but am also lucky to be able to share and learn from colleagues around the world,” he says. He joined Working Hands, a charity run by Hand Surgeon Donald Sammut, who identified a need for training in Nepal’s Burn Hospital.
Over the course of one week, Dr Dziewulski was based in Nepal to share techniques, learning and advances to enhance burns treatment. H”We are better resourced here in the UK,” he says, “and have been able to make advances in burn care because of that.”
On April 25th, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed over 8,000 people and injured more than 21,000 in Nepal. Fortunately, the earthquake did not affect the Hospital and Burns Unit in Nepal apart from power issues and a lack of fuel supply.
“We were there in the ‘burn season’ with the weather starting to turn colder and more people using stoves for heating and getting injured as a result,” says Dr Dziewulski. “One of the reasons we were asked to visit is because the burn doctors there cannot get patients with moderate to large burn injuries to survive.”
Unfortunately, this is the situation in most countries in the developing world, particularly Nepal. Organisation of care and resources play a major role in this. “We helped by giving some ideas on structure and organisation of clinical burn care,” said Dr Dziewulski.
Lack Of Resources
Nepal suffers from a lack of resources within burn treatment. Electricity, heating, hot water, specialist equipment, dressings and other resources are hard to find. “Fortunately, they have great staff who are very talented, hardworking and are very willing to learn,” he said.
In many situations where there are wealthy people, wealth is unable to reach the poorest in society. “This poverty is a worldwide political and societal issue. Local governments and people must decide on funding healthcare for the whole population.”
After Dr Dziewulski’s visit to Nepal, he was able to reflect on the burn resources that the UK are fortunate to have. “It was a very thought provoking, challenging and an interesting experience,” he says. “It certainly made me reflect on how lucky we are in the UK to have our healthcare provided free at the point of delivery in an on the whole, organised and safe manner.”
Dr Dziewulski has been working with burn patients for over 25 years, initially as a trainee but for the last 18 as a Consultant Surgeon at St Andrew’s Hospital in Essex. “There are many pros in this area of surgery,” he said, “It is very challenging and rewarding.”
He also spent a year in training in Galveston, Texas, one of the best burn hospitals in the world. “You have the privilege of helping people when they are very sick, watching them recover and go on to have full and productive live, it’s a very humbling experience,” he said.
Being a plastic surgeon not only requires surgical expertise but also the usual medical skills to look after patients initially when they are injured to get them through fatal illness. Surgeons also have to use skills to undertake reconstructive surgeries to help improve function and appearance.
Not only is Dr Dziewulski one of the best-known burn surgeons in the UK, he is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and a member of the British Burns Association. He believes that others should have knowledge of the differences in treatments overseas. “I think talking and sharing of ideas engenders improved understanding and learning.”