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Beit Cure International Hospital, Malawi, 2013 - Chris Damant

This is a small (40 bed) paediatric orthopaedic hospital. The children's work is free, supported both by international donations as well as fee-paying adults (there is also a 15 bed private ward, for total hips/knees etc). Theatre is two days a week, the other days consist of a quick morning ward round and one or two outpatient clinics. There are obviously other departments such as physio and plastering, which you can observe if you wish. CURE is a Christian hospital and this is an integral part of their identity. I must say that this was the friendliest hospital I have ever visited and I was genuinely sad to leave behind many friends in the hospital, which is unlike anything I have experienced in the UK or elsewhere in Africa. You don't have to be a Christian to go, although I was and I feel this probably helped me to get involved because I joined one of the morning devotional groups with the staff. Some staff and students aren't Christians and also have a great time here so don't be discouraged!

I met a great group of people both inside and outside the hospital, including ex-pats and also elective students from the nearby Queens hospital (worth considering if you want a more typical low-resource hospital). We climbed Mt Mulanje, which was very beautiful, and went to Lake Malawi. I also visited some local churches, attended a mid-week Bible study group and had the wonderful opportunity to visit the homes of two of the cleaners!

The best thing about my elective was the lovely hospital community, which was very inspiring. CURE is a very high quality westernized hospital, so don't expect your usual Africa experience here. Personally I found paediatric orthopaedics too sub-specialised and I didn't get any teaching appropriate for my level as they were (understandably) more concerned with teaching the local orthopaedic trainees, which was a shame for me. Also they actually have quite a lot of surgeons and trainees so unfortunately you come pretty low in the pecking order to scrub or assist.

Overall I would give it 3 (satisfactory) on a scale of 1-5. Supervision was poor and I wasn't given any responsibilities. There were very few opportunities for observation and hands on. The one thing I would have done differently before I left would be to have read more about the surgical management of complicated clubfoot and cerebral palsy, and to have revised foot anatomy.

Approximate cost: £1420

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