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Medical Gains Made May be Lost; S&W Doctor Part of Group Helping Georgia

Article by Janice Gibbs, Temple Daily Telegram – Temple, TX

To most, the problems in Georgia, while troubling, are half a world away and can’t possibly compete with the 24/7 Olympic coverage for our attention. 

But, Dr. Lisa Councilman, an obstetrics anesthesiologist at Scott & White Memorial Hospital, has taken the Russia versus Georgia conflict personally. Councilman has spent time in Georgia as a representative of Kybele, a nonprofit humanitarian organization dedicated to improving childbirth conditions worldwide through medical education partnerships. 

Kybele has been sending volunteers to Georgia since 2006. Kybele has accomplished a lot in Georgia, where those in the medical field have heartily embraced the advances the volunteer organization has promoted, she said. “It’s very disheartening to think everything we’ve accomplished will be put on hold as the country deals with these bigger issues,” Councilman said. “The medical system was not up to Western standards by any means,” she said, “Now with all of the casualties, I’m concerned it will deplete the resources even more.” 

Most of Georgia’s physicians were trained in Russia and the equipment used in the hospitals is Russian and dated. Councilman said Kybele expects humanitarian aid will come through for Georgia, but what’s actually left of the infrastructure is a concern. Taking two steps back in the progress being made in medical treatment is one issue. A bigger issue is the safety of the individuals Kybele volunteers have come to know during trips to Georgia. “When you go there multiple times, they’re not just your colleagues, they’re your friends,” Councilman said. 

Earlier this week all of the Georgian physicians and staff who had worked with Kybele doctors had been accounted for, except for one, an obstetrician from Gori who was called up for military duty. “They got a call from him on Wednesday and he and his family are safe they got to Tbilisi,” Councilman said. “He said there was nothing left of Gori it’s been flattened.” A new maternity hospital had just been completed in Gori, a city with a population of about 50,000, and it’s assumed that it, too, is gone, she said. Before the recent problems, the State Department had told Kybele volunteers some regions in Georgia were dangerous and the volunteers stayed out of those areas, Councilman said. “We knew there were conflicts, but this caught everybody by surprise,” she said. “It’s very scary what it could lead to.” 

Also, what’s available now medically for the citizens of Georgia is a huge concern, Councilman said. Georgia has been a country struggling since its independence and this might make people more aware of the country and its needs. “We can only pray for a fast resolution,” she said. Councilman traveled to Georgia last November and was planning to return in late October. 

Last year, she and other Kybele team members were at a hospital in Georgia training physicians on how to use spinal anesthesia during births rather than the more dangerous general anesthesia that is normally used. The medical treatment of woman in labor has improved significantly since Kybele began training the Georgian doctors, Councilman said. 

In three years, the use of regional anesthesia for Caesarean sections increased from 16 percent to 80 percent in three hospitals in Tbilisi. Two of the hospitals increased the use of epidurals in standard vaginal deliveries from 29 percent to 60 percent and 21 percent to 45 percent. “It shows graphically that our work has made a difference and we were looking forward to going back and working with additional hospitals in other cities,” Councilman said. 

Kybele will continue its work in other countries. The Kybele board of directors will meet in a few weeks and the Georgia project will be a primary topic, Councilman said.