Planning for a Medical Mission Trip

Posted on February 2, 2016 by NHOC Tech under Dr. Hogan, Featured Articles

by: Kathleen A. Hogan, MD

In July, I will be traveling to Kinshasa, the capital of The Democratic Republic of Congo with WOGO – Women Orthopedist Global Outreach – on a medical mission to perform knee replacements at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital.  There will be over 50 people who travel with us – including nurses, scrub techs, and physical therapists. A tremendous amount of planning goes into these mission trips in order for them to be successful.

Pre-Trip Planning

A year before the trip, last July, the pre-team consisting of 2 surgeons and 3 team leaders traveled to Kinshasa.   They met with the hospital surgical staff and started the process of building a relationship with the orthopedic surgeons.   They discussed how we will select our patients, the availability of OR rooms, sterilization equipment and supplies.  We also need to determine where the team will stay and eat during their stay here, and identify transportation needs.   During every trip we plan educational talks for the health care professionals in the hospital and community service projects in addition to our surgeries, and these also need to be planned ahead of time.  This was a quick trip, less than a week, and so much was accomplished.  

Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital

The Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa is the most modern hospital in DRC.   Built in 2007, it has 150 beds, an ER, and ICU.  The hospital has a partnership with local medical schools.  The hospital was built by the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation (dmf.org). Dikembe Mutombo, an NBA legend and all star, has devoted his post basketball life to improving the lives of people in his homeland.  He is actively involved in the hospital and will be traveling together with us on our trip in July.

Shipping Supplies to Kinshasa

We are shipping all of our supplies to Kinshasa by cargo ship.  Although cheaper than shipping by air, this requires that the shipping occur 4-6 months before we arrive.    Zimmer -Biomet donates the knee replacement implants.  But we also need to bring everything with us that we will need to care for our patients.  Surgical drapes, gloves,sutures, and dressings.   Betadine to clean the skin.   Teds stockings to prevent swelling after surgery. Antibiotics.  Crutches and walkers.   Bedpans.  These are supplies that we take for granted in our hospitals but are not always available in third world countries.   Many of  these supplies are donated by the hospitals that the surgeons and members of the team work at.  Locally, Catholic Medical Center, St. Josephs Hospital, and Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center have been extremely generous in donating many boxes of supplies for our trip.

Evaluating Patients

Next month, 2 surgeons, a medical doctor,  and 3 nurses will travel back to Kinshasa to evaluate patients prior to surgery.   In prior mission trips, this evaluation has taken place on the first day of our trip.    Patients are seen and evaluated for their suitability for surgery.   We will know ahead of time how many patients we will be treating.  Patients will know that unless their medical condition has changed drastically, they will be having their knee replaced in July.   We expect that some patients will travel quite a distance to the hospital so this will keep them from being disappointed.   

Raising Funds

These trips are expensive. We are still in the process of raising funds for our trip. A special thanks to the NH Women’s Weekend Tennis League who chose WOGO as their charity to support during the recent Diva Doubles Tennis Tournament!   All of the members of the WOGO team are excited about our upcoming trip and focused on making sure the planning and organization is in place to make it successful.