CALOUNDRA, QUEENSLAND – 20 May 2021: The award-winning 8-part documentary series The Surgery Ship will air for the first time on Australian commercial free-to-air TV beginning this Sunday, 23 May at 11am on 7TWO.

The series will run over the next eight weeks, with an encore screening of each episode on Mondays at 1pm. It will also be available to stream on demand on 7Plus.

Filmed in Benin, West Africa, the series follows life aboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, the MV Africa Mercy, operated by the charity organisation Mercy Ships.

The Surgery Ship follows a team of volunteer doctors and nurses as they sail to the poorest nations on earth. They will face the most severe of medical issues, not seen in other parts of the world. Huge tumours left to grow unchecked, massive deformities and more. But the medical challenges are only half of the story.

They will also confront ethical decisions as they decide who will be helped and who will not. This is a searing, complex journey for the volunteer medics, as they deal with life and death cases – and balance the fates of these patients in their hands.

The Surgery Ship features several Australian volunteers including the ship’s captain John Borrow and his wife, dietitian Lee-Anne, from Sydney, hospital physician Lindsay Sherriff from Port Macquarie, Toowoomba physio Nick Veltjens, Sydney paediatrician Nerida Moore, and infection control nurse Sonja Dawson from NSW’s Central Coast.  

 The documentary series was made with the support of Screen Australia and Screen NSW. Produced by the award-winning team at Media Stockade in Sydney, the film is an uncompromising look at the consequences of lives lived without access to modern medicine and the ethical challenges in trying to help.

On location in Benin, series producer Madeleine Hetherton and the film crew were embedded with the Africa Mercy team, documenting the powerful and inspirational stories of both patients and healers. Some of the stories end in triumph, others in tragedy as the doctors must explain to their patients that nothing can be done for their terminal conditions.

Hetherton observes, “The Surgery Ship is also a story about the intense ethical dilemmas faced by individual medics as they decide who they will help and who they will turn away, knowing that there is nowhere else for these people to go.”

Despite these complicated issues, The Surgery Ship is also a story about the everyday heroism of both Africans and the volunteers and the human drive to rise above circumstances, to survive, and give the best of ourselves – even when there seems no end in sight.

The Surgery Ship series premieres on 7TWO at 11am on Sunday, 23 May and encores at 1pm on Monday, 24 May and continues each week until 12 July.

Watch a two-minute series teaser at


About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 55 developing countries, providing services valued at more than $1.7 billion and directly benefitting more than 2.8 million people. Our ships are crewed by volunteers from over 60 nations, with an average of over 1,200 volunteers each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, mariners, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills. With 16 national offices and an Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.

 For more information, please contact:

Melissa Mason
National Office Manager
Mercy Ships Australia
07 5437 2992
[email protected]

High resolution photos available upon request, with attribution to Mercy Ships.

For an interview with the Mercy Ships volunteers featured in The Surgery Ship, please contact Melissa Mason directly on 07 5437 2992 or [email protected]

For an interview with The Surgery Ship series producer Madeleine Hetherton, please contact Madeleine directly on 0408 622 203 or [email protected].