City doctor tells of helping poor on marine mercy mission

Stephen Alcorn on board the Mercy Ship. Picture: Contributed

Stephen Alcorn on board the Mercy Ship. Picture: Contributed

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A CITY doctor has returned from volunteering on the world’s largest civilian floating hospital, describing his experience as “challenging, inspiring and rewarding”.

Stephen Alcorn, a registrar anaesthetist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, worked on board the 16,000 tonne state-of-the-art vessel, Africa Mercy, run by the international charity Mercy Ships.

It is currently docked in Madagascar where more than 90 per cent of the population live on less than 75p a day.

This is the first time Stephen has volunteered on the floating hospital, where he also played a critical part in helping to train local doctors in safe anaesthesia techniques.

He said: “In the UK we forget how lucky we are and take for granted that our relatives can be treated urgently. In Madagascar that is just not the case.

“I was incredibly proud of my Malagasy colleagues who had to adjust to new techniques and equipment, interpreting and responding to results they have never before encountered, and who rose to the challenge magnificently.

“Ultimately, what Mercy Ships is trying, and managing, to achieve is an incredible explosion of generosity, love and life-changing medical intervention in a place where people wait years, decades, even lifetimes for what we would take for granted at home and it is a privilege to be involved in that even in a small way.”

The Africa Mercy was converted from a Danish rail ferry into a state-of-the-art hospital ship. It is staffed by up to 400 volunteers from 40 different nations – including surgeons and nurses, cooks and engineers.

They pay for the privilege to work and provide free medical service to Madagascar’s population of 22 million, in addition to carrying out mentoring and training programmes in local villages.

Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “Our volunteers are the lifeline of the ship – without them we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do.

“We are so grateful for volunteers like Stephen who give up their time and skills to help us deliver first class medical care to the many desperate patients who visit the ship.”

Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and has worked in more than 70 countries, providing services from the likes of doctors, teachers and dentists, valued at more than $1 billion, helping more than 2.54 million people.