Australian anaesthetist Vanessa Andean is currently volunteering in Madagascar alongside her husband Jim Callahan and other members of our WHO Surgical Safety Checklist Team. Here she shares her recollections of her third and final week in-country.

Week three was a whirlwind of six hospitals in four days via some of the most beautiful and remote airstrips we have seen.

The hospitals are all doing their best in often very difficult circumstances – limited staff, broken or non-existant equipment, isolation from the rest of the country.  We’ve tried to explain that we can’t fix all the equipment issues but that using a safety checklist will enable them to do the best and safest job they can with the resources they’ve got.  They did laugh incredulously when I said that even in wealthy Australia many hospitals complain about needing better equipment!

We were sad to say goodbye to our trusty little Cessna and even trustier pilots, although we are definitely ready for a change of pace.  It’s been a fascinating three weeks, a very privileged tour of a beautiful country, with very revealing insights into the inner workings of 16 hospitals in all corners of the island.  We’ve met some wonderful people who are achieving great things against many odds, and we hope we’ve made surgery safer for the very deserving patients of Madagascar.

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Best thoughts to everyone,