The Cleft-centre in Chengannur, located in the Indian state of Kerala, is the most recent of our four Indian Cleft-centres and is under the directorship of Dr. P.C. Mathew. He studied at the dental college in Mangalore for six years and worked for three years at the university of Chennai as a maxillo-facial surgeon. He was also trained as a cleft surgeon by Prof. Manikandhan, head of our Chennai Cleft-centre. The Cleft-centre is located in the St. Thomas hospital, which was established after the second world war with Dr. A.K. Cherian as its director. The goal of this establishment has always been to provide aid to poorer members of society. And even today, 20 years after the death of its founder, this idea continues. To date 428 treatments have been performed.
A lot has happened at the Cleft-centre of the St. Thomas Hospital.
The Swiss Cleft-centre in St. Thomas Hospital in Malakkara/Kerala has now been operating for four years and has developed into a renowned Cleft-centre in South India over that time. Dr. Mathew, the head of the Cleft-centre, does everything he can to spread the word. The St. Thomas Cleft-centre was registered in 2015 as an NGO (Non-governmental organisation). This term was initially used by the United Nations Organisation (UNO). NGOs are foundations which are particularly active in social and environmental issues independent of their relationship with the UNO. Dr. Mathew is particularly proud of the fact that the St. Thomas Hospital is the only clinic registered as an NGO in the entire state of Kerala. He hopes this means that more patients will be transferred by the state.
Since the majority of the patients in Kerala live very far from the Cleft-centre, Dr. Mathew has established four "outposts" in some of Kerala's key districts. Once a month a doctor is present, checks on patients after the operations and arranges an appointment for further treatment in the Cleft-centre if necessary. This saves patients the need to undertake a journey that is very long in some cases, and nonetheless ensures post-operative control. At the same time, it helps maintain good relations with the people and raises the level of awareness of the centre.
Camps (information events for cleft-children)
Together with his team, Dr. Mathew organised 16 larger and smaller camps during 2016 at which 387 patients were registered. These patients will gradually be offered treatments. It is fewer than in 2015, which is easily explained in that thanks to the new outposts fewer camps are now necessary.
Dr. Mathew is involved not only in his surgery, but also in public relations work, his aim is to achieve a "cleft-free Kerala" by way of ensuring adequate education and information for the public.
In May/June 2015 we were visited by a Swiss surgeon, Dr. Lindhorst, a consultant at the clinic for oral, orthodontal and maxillo-facial surgery at the university hospital of Zurich. Dr. Lindhorst was amazed and excited by how quickly and precisely the India colleagues operate in accordance with the "Zurich School". He assisted in two to three cleft operations every day and also operated autonomously in some instances. He was able to extend and advance his own techniques.
He noticed that Dr. Mathew not only performed operations but also very engaged in public relations work and is pushing the concept of a "cleft-free Kerala" by way of ensuring adequate education of the population.
The entire period was an impressive experience in which he learned a great deal.
At almost the same time, Prof. Dr. Hermann Sailer, president of the CCI, was at the St. Thomas Hospital in Chengannur with a film crew from the USA for a three-day visit. Prof. Sailer discussed some difficult cases with Dr. Mathew and visited children with cleft lips or palates outside the town of Chengannur.