Rambam Medical Center doctors, including Tbilisi-born surgeon, operate in Georgia on children with complex congenital defects .
(photo credit: COURTESY OF RAMBAM MEDICAL CENTER)
Doctors from Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center have become self-appointed ambassadors of good will in the Republic of Georgia. Twice a year for the past five years, they have traveled to capital city of Tbilisi to perform operations on local youngsters with serious congenital defects, making Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili the number-one supporter of the project.
The delegation – which consists of pediatric surgeons, anesthesiologists and intensive care specialists from Rambam’s Ruth Children’s Hospital – examine a large number of young patients with complex problems over the course of five days.
The help is needed because local doctors don’t have the expertise to treat the children, or they have previously tried and failed, explained Dr. Ran Steinberg, director of the pediatric surgery department at Rambam’s Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital, who heads the Rambam team.
“On the first day of our arrival, we examine the cases and order all the necessary tests. In the days that remain, we operate for many hours in two parallel operating rooms on as many children as possible. These are complex and sometimes very challenging cases, but the intention is to help as many children as possible while we are there.”
Over the years, the Rambam team has amassed a fairly large group of patients at the Georgian hospital. In addition to operating, they take advantage of the visits to examine former patients and monitor their condition.
“The relationship with the Georgian team has been ongoing throughout the year in consultations about patients we treated, as well as for new patients,” Steinberg said. “The fact that we are in an ongoing partnership with the medical staff in Tbilisi has many benefits in terms of patient care. It can be said that this is really an extension of Rambam in Georgia.”
One team member, Dr. Arkadi Vachian, director of the minimally invasive surgery unit at Rambam’s children’s hospital, was born and raised in Tbilisi and came to Israel many years ago as a young doctor. He finds the return to Georgia, where he has the opportunity to perform surgery and train local doctors, a very satisfying emotional experience.
The government of Georgia initiated cooperation between Rambam and Givi Zhvania, the pediatric hospital in Tbilisi, to facilitate the program.
About two years ago, the Israeli doctors were invited to the President’s palace for an official visit. Since then, they have also met with the Georgian health minister and with Israeli Ambassador to Georgia Shabtai Tsur, who once thanked the doctors inside an operating room.