According to the World Health Organization and the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists, a country the size of Burundi should have 600 physician anesthesiologists. Today, if I include myself, there are 8. Most of the anesthesia care in Burundi is carried out by non-physician anesthetists, who are working under difficult conditions, without supervision, with inadequate supplies, sometimes without even the most basic equipment including oxygen. For anesthesia care to advance in this country, what is needed is more physician anesthesiologists, to teach, to lead, and to advance the peri-operative care of this country. People around the world are dying each and every day for lack of access to safe and affordable anesthesia care. If you live in the US or Canada, you don’t see them, and you don’t hear their stories, but they are there. This is the reality.
This problem is not isolated to anesthesia. In most of Sub-Saharan Africa there are not enough doctors of every speciality, but obviously God prepared me to speak into this particular problem, in this place and time.
Last night, I had a wonderful opportunity to gather with the other anesthesiologists working in Burundi, in the hopes of creating a society, recognized by the government, which can lead the way forward in this struggle. These are men who trained in Burundi, Belgium and France. They understand the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead, and they are ready to fight for the needs of their country. It was an honor to be invited into this group. I want to do everything I can to strengthen and encourage them.
The anesthesiologists of Burundi (I am the one second from the left)
Next week I will be travelling to Chicago to present to the board of PAACS, the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons. A small group of anesthesiologists working in Africa will be pleading for them to allow us to begin training programs under their umbrella for physician anesthesiologists in Africa. If you are reading this blog, would you pray for this meeting, and for a way forward in this global challenge?
The needs at our hospital in Kibuye are massive. Many days I feel overwhelmed. And then when I step back and consider the needs at Kibuye multiplied by tens of thousands of other hospitals that are facing the same challenges, the burden is crushing. All this drives me to my only hope, God, who cares more about this problem than I do, who alone can speak creation out of nothing, who loves us and who loves our patients. His love is so great that He sent his Son Jesus to offer us eternal healing from our broken condition, and eternal hope. It is because of Him that my family and I are here in Burundi. It is because of Him that our team has been able to work here for the past 5 years. And it is because of Him that one day this massive burden will be lifted.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.