Texas surgeon on medical mission to treat Palestinian children 6Aug10 August 8, 2010

by Sarah Harlan  and Steve Sosbee -   Palestine Note -  6 August 2010

On August 5, Dr. Jose Monsivais from El Paso, Texas completed a 2-week mission providing expert hand surgery for children in Lebanon’s refugee camps and in the southern West Bank town of Hebron through Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

Dr. Monsivais volunteered his time at Haifa Hospital in the Bourj El Barajnah refugee camp in Beirut and moved the following week to Alia Government Hospital in Hebron.

Neither the Palestinian population in Lebanon nor those under occupation in the West Bank have access to a hand surgeon specialist, and Dr. Monsivais’s mission enabled dozens of needy patients access to high-quality care that they otherwise would not have locally.

Palestine Note spoke with Dr. Monsivais about his work and his time in Hebron and Lebanon. Dr. Monsivais said he became acquainted PCRF through an ad on the American College of Surgeons website, but this was not his first medical mission to the developing world. Dr. Monsivais has also worked in eastern Europe, Africa, and Central and South America.

Dr. Monsivais said when he arrived at both work sites, he was overwhelmed by the number of patients. In Lebanon, they had him booked to see 70 patients when he arrived. It was a tall order, he said, but doable. When he got to Hebron, however, there were 120 patients booked for him, with more on the way. In Hebron, the need was too great and the time too little, unfortunately.

In both places, he said he was very upset to see people with simple conditions, which he could repair easily but were too far down the list to be treated.

“I feel bad for the people I didn’t have time to take care of,” he said regretfully. “But the time was not available.”

After visiting the Lebanese camps and Hebron, Dr. Monsivais got an idea about what these areas need to better serve their populations in terms of medical treatment. Physical needs are part of the equation, as he said. Better instrumentation, equipment for imaging studies, diagnostics and occupational therapy were all needed or needed improvement in the Palestinian areas he visited.

Organization is part of improving the medical treatment situation in these places, too. Little things, like regularly maintaining the instruments available is a step toward better treatment, but ultimately, he said, the areas he visited are doing the utmost possible with limited resources.

Dr. Monsivais is keen to get more resources and trained personnel into medically underdeveloped areas in the Middle East. He discussed with me his desire to organize a hand and reconstructive microsurgery service in Hebron. He was part of a team that organized such a service in Honduras, he said, and now it is flourishing.

But Dr. Monsivais has been troubled by the reluctance in the US to give money to causes in the Middle East. Other colleagues organizing medical missions to Uganda and Mongolia are funded with ease, but people are leery of Middle East.

And he does not understand why people are resistant. There are needy people there just like anywhere else in the world. And when you think about it, he said, we’re all connected to the Middle East.

“Regardless, if you’re Jewish, Christian, Muslim – there’s a tie to the Middle East. We all have a tie to the Middle East. And I think we should work to improve the situation [there].”

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