EALING surgeon Sala Abdalla is making final preparations for her fourth overseas trip to West Africa.

As founder of the charity Operation International UK (OIUK), she will head a team of surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists helping people in Ghana who can’t afford to pay for surgical procedures, such as hernias and gall bladders.

On a previous visit, there were 500 people waiting outside a rural hospital for the team’s arrival, including one woman who had travelled eight hours and was sleeping in the hospital grounds. 

Sala said: “We had only one week of surgeries, so we triaged as many patients as possible and carried out close to 150 operations in five days.

“It does make you reflect on how much more efficient we could be with both our resources and time in the NHS.

“We take so much for granted, but, when you have less to work with, you become far more focused and resourceful.  

 “I’ve learnt a lot from working overseas. Ideally, we should be doing more minimally invasive 'keyhole' surgery.

“The recovery time is quicker and a lot of these people need to get back to work as soon as possible.”

Sala, who came to the UK as a 10-year-old refugee from Sudan, is aware of the disparity of healthcare, where people with money get treated and those who don’t live in pain and face premature death for otherwise treatable conditions. 

Her father died from a heart condition after being driven to a succession of hospitals in the Sudan where he was told there wasn’t a suitable clinician or equipment available until it was too late.

“It was a tragic and a completely unnecessary death which is played out in many parts of the world because basic healthcare isn’t readily available to many people,” she said.

“It is something I have felt passionate about since I was a child and my reason for becoming a doctor.”

Sala’s first foray into charitable work was six years ago when she spent a week with Operation Hernia as a senior surgical registrar.

The five-person team completed more than 80 procedures, despite power cuts and limited drugs.

“I loved it and things just progressed from there,” said the 39-year-old mother of one who works as a general surgeon at Ealing Hospital.

The charity’s next trip to Ghana is at the end of the year but Sala’s long-term goal is to create a pool of clinical volunteers.