North Qld Mater surgeon gives hope to refugee women globally

 North Qld Mater surgeon gives hope to refugee women globally

For more than two decades, North Queensland surgeon Professor Ajay Rane OAM has been dedicated to improving the lives of thousands of refugee women suffering from severe childbirth issues in developing countries.

Prof Rane, a Mater Private Hospital Townsville urogynaecologist, has led the fight against women’s health problems, such as obstetric fistula, by training medical staff in eight countries.

Obstetric fistula is a medical condition in which a hole develops in the birth canal in a woman as a result of childbirth. Left untreated, it can cause incontinence and can lead to a range of other physical ailments including frequent infections, kidney disease, infertility, or death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two million women worldwide suffer from untreated genital fistulae and 100,000 new cases occur each year.

Prof Rane is one of the directors of Flourishing Women, a charity set up to treat and prevent birth trauma, genito-urinary fistulae, incontinence and prolapse in women who live in the less developed world.

Later this year, Prof Rane and a team of Queensland doctors will travel to India, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji in December to operate on suffering women.

Since 2004, he has treated women in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Congo, Tanzania, China, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Recently Prof Rane and his team (Dr Usama Shahid and Dr Anthony Cerqui), returned from Bangladesh after providing lectures to doctors and medical students about pelvic anatomy and management of stress, including incontinence and prolapse.

The team donated and set up the first urodynamics machine in Bangladesh, and provided medical equipment including surgical instruments, sutures and anaesthetic.

Dr Shahid said they operated at a fistula hospital providing “life-restoring surgery” for vulnerable women living with prolapse and urinary incontinence.

“As part of this trip, we travelled to the Rohingya refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar – the largest refugee camp in the world – to see what future work they can provide,” Dr Shahid said.

Prof Rane described his team’s work as “very important”.

“We aim to train doctors so that eventually they will not need our help,” Prof Rane said.

“In the Pacific alone, we have trained more than 50 specialists in women’s health.

“While the developing world continues to optimise progressive patient outcomes, the majority of urogynaecological patients around the world are battling more rudimentary targets.”

Many of the gynaecologists Prof Rane has mentored have furthered their medical practice in “some of the most remote places on Earth, like Kiribati and Tuvalu”.

“We have managed to liaise with local teams and form specialised centres that aim to provide holistic urogynaecology care,” he said.

“We provide lectures to doctors (from residents to consultants) as well as midwives and physiotherapists.

“Over time, this has led to the development of proficient urogynaecological teams, who can appropriately assess patients, safely operate while knowing their limitations, manage complications and follow up patients.”

Prof Rane, an advocate and activist for the health and reproductive rights of disadvantaged women, established Queensland’s first non-metropolitan urogynaecology subspecialty clinic in Townsville and has led world-leading research into vaginal reconstructive surgery.

Mater Private Hospital Townsville General Manager Stephanie Barwick acknowledged Prof Rane’s efforts in helping vulnerable women around the world through his high-quality medical care.

“The humanitarian work Prof Rane is doing is life-changing and helping so many women who have suffered for too long,” Ms Barwick said.

‘He has given them a chance to access healthcare they would not have otherwise had.”

Media Release

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