In 2005, with the cooperation of the European Hernia Society, the Plymouth-Sekondi/Takoradi Link, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and the Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit (MDHU) at Derriford Hospital, a team was assembled of six surgeons, one registrar, one hernia nurse specialist, five nurses and one administrative support staff to travel initially to Accra and then onwards to Takoradi, a distance of five hours by road. The surgeons were selected for their known expertise in Hernia surgery either through the European or British Hernia Societies.
Operation Hernia was advertised on local radio during the previous month and prospective patients were examined and selected by the local surgeons in preparation for their operation. Five hospitals in the Takoradi Region were utilised. At each hospital a local surgeon, and if possible a surgical trainee were recruited to assist the Visiting surgeons and to be taught open mesh inguinal hernia repair under local anaesthesia. The patients were mostly fit young men, many with long-standing inguinal hernias of 10 to 15 years duration and many of the hernias extended down to the knees.
The nurses from the MDHU and the hernia nurse specialist provided support for the Takoradi hospital nurses together with written and verbal information on the specific pre, perioperative and postoperative care of groin hernia patients.
Operating was carried out on five days of the ten-day visit and a typical list consisted of five or six inguinal hernia repairs together with the occasional incisional hernia (total of four), laparotomy (two cases) and one emergency caesarean section. The operating theatres were very basic, anaesthetic support was provided by nurse anaesthetists, all instruments were steam sterilised and were of a very old vintage.
One hundred and thirty operations were achieved during the mission. There were no intra-operative or immediate post-operative complications. Patients were discharged one to seven days after surgery depending on the severity of the operation performed, social circumstances and any intermediate complications. Two patients suffered complications, one requiring exploration under general anaesthesia, with eventual resolution and no additional problems.
Plans were then formulated for a Hernia Treatment Centre in Takoradi to be established with financial aid from the British High Commission and from corporate sponsorship. It was planned that this centre would be supported by structured periodic visits from surgeons and nurses based in Plymouth, the European Hernia Society and any other volunteers wishing to support the Link.