INTERVIEW: Burn survivors in Egypt are increasingly active members of society: Professor Moiemen

Ingy Deif, Sunday 31 Jul 2022

Ahram Online spoke to Professor Naiem Moimen, president of the International Association of Burn Injury on the challenges faced by burn survivors in Egypt and what the future holds for them, including what hospitals in Egypt are doing for them.

Prof Naiem Moimen

Ahram Online: Tell us more about yourself and how you developed a passion for the field of burn treatments?

Naiem Moiemen: I am the president of the International Association of Burn Injury (ISBI) and the chairman of the Medical and Scientific Research Centre at Ahl Masr Hospital for Burn and Trauma.

Additionally, I am a professor at the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham and a consultant plastic surgeon at the University Hospital.

I am also a member of the senior editorial board of BURNS and the Journal of Burn Care Research (JBCR), Journal of Burn and Trauma and I was in the past the deputy editor of Journal of Burn and Trauma (JBT).

Previously I occupied the position of president of European Burn Association (EBA) and the British Burn Association (BBA).

The reasons why a healthcare worker gets into the field of healthcare or social care may differ from one person to another; however, there always is a common reason between all of us.

That is the drive to help and care for individuals and provide them a more comfortable life, especially after going through a traumatic experience.

Burn injuries may seem like they are like other injuries; however, burn survivors not only live through a life-long physiological impact but also a scarring psychological impact too that sadly takes extensive treatment and time to fully recover from.

AO: What are the main challenges that burn survivors face in Egypt?

NM: It is without doubt that the survivors face many challenges, first of which is the speed of medical assistance and that is why in Ahl Masr Hospital we have two helipads.

It is crucial that burn survivors get the medical assistance they need within six hours because with each passing minute, the risk of losing their life increases and the burn injury often escalates to a long-term disability or a disfiguration.

Secondly, most burn survivors belong to the most disadvantaged groups and therefore cannot pay for the cost of treatment.

That is why the existence of Ahl Masr Hospital as an entity serving Egypt, Africa, and the Middle East by treating burn survivors at no cost through the support of hearty donations, is crucial and critical.

Decreased awareness of burn injuries still has burn survivors feeling as if they are not welcome in their societies due to the intentional and unintentional bullying due to their appearance and injuries.

That is a challenge that we, as a society, face by raising awareness about burn injuries and constantly including burn survivors in national initiatives and more.

AO: Have you noticed any change in terms of how Egyptian society views burn victims? And what are your aspirations in that regard?

NM: Unquestionably, burn survivors in Egypt are going through a transitional phase from being treated as outcasts to being included as active members in the society.

A prime example of this is Manal Hosny, our official spokesperson at Ahl Masr Foundation and Ahl Masr Hospital, hosting several panels and [Basmalah Mohamed, a nine-year-old girl who suffered severe burns,] joining the Ask the President panel in the Differently Abled ceremony, during its third edition in December 2021.

Egyptians saw how President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi warmly supported the burn survivors and shed light on the issue of burn injuries.

This was a great step in Egypt where a role model for many has proved that burn survivors should be included in our society and are active members just like able-bodied individuals.

I aspire that for the future we see more national initiatives regarding burn injuries. In addition, it is important that the private sector play an active role in having a positive impact on this issue.

AO: How can a specialised hospital of such a magnitude make a difference in the country and the region?

NM: Ahl Masr Hospital is the first and largest hospital of its kind in Egypt, the Middle East and Africa to offer free treatment to trauma and burn victims in Egypt and it will make a huge difference in Egypt and the region because of its experienced medical healthcare workers and solid infrastructure.

The hospital has a capacity of 200 beds, consisting of six floors, in addition to two air ambulance landings (helipads), not for luxury, but for the speed of transferring cases.

Additionally, in Ahl Masr Hospital we have implemented the latest modern technology such as big data analysis and artificial intelligence mechanisms to ease the treatment process and overall recovery of patients.

AO: In your opinion, how can such a project maintain itself financially?

NM: Ahl Masr Hospital has been built built and will operate by the generous donations by individuals and entities, such as banks and private companies.

Since Ahl Masr Hospital treats burn survivors at no cost, it may feel worrysome to some at times when donations are not as impactful as before. Just like the time of COVID-19, when many priorities changed.

However, in these harsh times, we as individuals must come together and remember to support the causes we hold dear to our heart and that greatly need our support.

AO: What are five goals you wish to reach in your career in general and maybe specifically in Egypt?

NM: I wish to see an extensive healthcare insurance system available for all people and if we are speaking in Egypt, then all Egyptians near and far, across the country.

I also wish to see an increased awareness in Egypt about the severity of burn injuries, its repercussions and how to prevent them.

With generations to come, I hope to train and equip medical healthcare workers specialising in treating burn injuries, and in return, they would educate generations to come.

I also wish that the science and technology advance in tissue regeneration to prevent deformity and help in saving as much tissue as possible for regrowth.

Finally, I wish to see burn survivors integrated more into society and participate as active members of the community.

So to sum up, globally, and in Egypt in specific I wish for an extensive healthcare insurance system, increased awareness, trained medical personnel’s, technology advancement and integration of burn survivors.

AO: What is most fulfilling about reaching out with help to burn victims? Can you share incidents or stories from your memory in that regard?

NM: Every case and every survivor left an impact on me to this day even if I did not interact with them directly.

Many think that only healthcare workers leave an impact on their patients, but that is not entirely true.

It warms my heart when a burn survivor rises from the dark against all odds and participates in the society as an active member due to the long journey of recovery.

I hold it dear to my heart when I find the burn survivor fight against the challenges that they face, either physiological, psychological or even societal.

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