Highbury doctor recognised for life saving work in Ethiopia

16:07 21 October 2012

VSO volunteer anaesthesiologist doctor Tom Bashford discusses with a doctor on his ward round in the Intensive-care unit at Yekatit Hosiptal, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

VSO volunteer anaesthesiologist doctor Tom Bashford discusses with a doctor on his ward round in the Intensive-care unit at Yekatit Hosiptal, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ben Langdon Photography

A crusading doctor who spent a year working in Ethiopia has been recognised for his life-saving work.

Anaesthetist Tom Bashford, 32, of Melgund Road, Highbury, recently received the Patient Safety Award from the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland following a year working as a volunteer in a hospital in Addis Ababa.

His skills were invaluable in a poverty-stricken country of 85million people, which has just one anaesthetist for every 5.3million people.

During his 12-month stint for charity VSO, which ended in July, the young doctor shared his knowledge – often simple life-saving skills and practices taken for granted in UK hospitals – with a team of doctors in Ethiopia.

Dr Bashford, formerly of Mildmay Park, Newington Green, said: “I’ve seen how much benefit a trained UK health worker can bring in just one year in Ethiopia.

“I feel there’s a kind of moral obligation on countries with so many trained health professionals to support and encourage them to volunteer overseas.

“I gained my medical skills in the UK and I’ll almost certainly spend my whole career looking after people in Britain.

“But there’s such a desperate need for these skills in poorer countries like Ethiopia. I wish more people could give up a year to share what they know. I’ve seen what a lasting difference it can make.”

During his time there he was able to train staff in how to use life-saving equipment, leaving behind a legacy of knowledge that will undoubtedly save people’s lives.

Before he arrived, patients were dying or suffering brain damage on the wards because their oxygen levels were dropping and over-stretched staff weren’t spotting this until it was too late.

In the UK, pulse oximeters, simple devices that clip on the finger and measure how much oxygen is in the blood, are used routinely.

Dr Bashford found that, despite having been donated the necessary equipment, many of the staff needed training in how to use it effectively.

He said: “You can take these things out of the cupboard, you can confidently explain to people how they’re used, how they can work, and how they can benefit their patients.

“Then you can support that use over a number of months until they come completely routine and as useful to them as they are to us at home.”

Dr Bashford is on a 10-year postgraduate training scheme with University College Hospital and is currently working at King George Hospital in Ilford.

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