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October 25, 2014

As medical care in Syria collapses, Mayo surgeon joins effort to help

20 months of warfare have decimated Syria’s ability to provide medical care to its people. With half of the country’s hospitals destroyed in the conflict, remaining clinics and pharmacies are overrun with patients and crippled by shortages of supplies and medicine.

A Mayo Clinic surgeon has joined a team of American doctors making an effort to help by bringing supplies to the country and training Syrian medical staff. Dr. Ahmad Nassr tells National Public Radio anesthetic supplies are critically short. Nassr is showing Syrian doctors techniques for treating shattered bones without anesthetic, so that the limited anesthesia that is available can be saved for patients undergoing invasive surgery.

Reuters reported last week that patients occasionally bring their own anesthesia to surgery. The black market for stolen medical supplies is flourishing  and now rivals the trafficking of weapons and foreign currency.

The training sessions that Dr. Nassr and his colleagues provided were held across the border in Turkey because conditions in Syria are too dangerous.

The group Doctors Without Borders posted this account from a Syrian physician: