This page covers two visits: from the UK to Albania in May 2012, and from Albania to the UK in March 2013.

Visit to Albania, May 2012

The visit was arranged at the invitation of Mirela Idrizaj, chair of the Albanian League of Cystic Fibrosis in conjunction with Prof. Evda Veveka of the National Children’s Hospital in Tirana. The CHI team consisted of Dr Hazel Evans, paediatrician and Caroline Yonge, physiotherapist, from Southampton University Hospital, Sue Barraclough, dietician from Poole and Jim Hopwood, project manager. We were met at the airport on Thursday afternoon by Mirela, her husband and a friend and driven to a hotel near the hospital. We then met our interpreter who also acted as chauffer /guide and had a brief tour of the facilities with Julia the chief nurse and a walk in the park before meeting Prof. Veveka and two league members (parents of CF children) for dinner.

Those we met were clearly quite affluent. Elsewhere there was evidence of great poverty.

On Friday morning we saw the unit in action, examined and discussed four patients, and visited the lab to discuss sweat testing. In the afternoon the clinical team gave lectures to about 12 nurses. In the evening we had dinner with Mirela and Evda to discuss future cooperation. My summary then was that we had seen:

  • A bright attractive centre but without enough room to always segregate CF patients and with only one toilet.
  • Enthusiastic, friendly staff but most without specialist training.
  • Good physio guidelines in booklet and DVD form but only one physio with little time to follow-up / uncertain how well the guidelines are followed.
  • Knowledgeable and experienced specialist doctor following the latest guidelines and protocols but heavily dependant on one person.
  • Regular appointments, annual reviews and good record keeping but a long expensive journey for some patients – do they all come?
  • Most basic treatments free but regular shortages of drugs and supplies at the end of each quarter. Essential sputum tests, nebulisers and some antibiotics must be paid for.
  • Active parents association with excellent relationships with the medical staff.
  • Good results, steadily improving but many sufferers undiagnosed. We discussed possible training visits but the response proved disappointingly ‘lat’; they seemed to feel hopeless in the face of the challenges they face and the relatively small help we could offer.

A more positive feel returned on Saturday morning when the clinicians gave talks to about 28 parents. A lively question session had to be restrained as many parents had their children with them.

We returned to the airport at midday Saturday after a short but productive visit.

Our full report, with 18 recommendations to improve treatment and offers of help, has been reviewed with health ministry officials. We expect to welcome a young doctor, a physiotherapist and a nurse to Southampton for training in the New Year.

Visit by our Albanian friends, March 2013

Three staff members from the Mother Teresa Children’s Hospital in Tirana visited Southampton from 17 to 23 March 2013. They were: Irena Kasmi (paediatrician), Shqiponja Bebeci (CF nurse) and Fatbardha Pino (physio nurse). Unfortunately the interpreter who had been invited to accompany them was refused a visa. As the two nurses do not speak English we hired interpreters from Bostico International.

The following training programme at the bottom of the page was set up and run by Hazel Evans; with Friday left free for sightseeing and shopping in Winchester.

Accommodation and transport and almost all the meals were provided by CHI trustees. This helped us get to know our guests better, and also enabled CHI to make the best use of its resources.

We also handed over a new Spirometer, and a 6 month supply of consumables as previously discussed with Prof Evda Vevecka.

Feedback from the visitors was good. Although Irena did suggest that their main problem was lack of equipment and supplies rather than knowledge, she also wrote: “I want to thank you again for wonderful time I had there. I’m impressed by the performance of our colleagues in Southampton Hospital and appreciate very much the experience I got there. I’m sure this experience will be very helpful to me in my daily work. I want to thank you also for your hospitality and the time you spend with us. Hoping there will be other similar occasions in the future.” She agreed to look out for success stories to support our fundraising efforts.

detailed program

Monday 18th March
1000hrs meet Dr Hazel Evans at Southampton General Hospital Costa Coffee
1030hrs physiotherapy with Caroline Yonge including patient on ward (FP)
1030hrs bronchoscopies and tour of the welcome trust (IK and SB)
1300hrs lunch (SB, FP and IK)
1400hrs cystic fibrosis clinic (IK, FP, SB)
Tuesday 19th March
0900hrs clinic in Poole with Dr Ann Dewer and Sue Barraclough (SB and FP)
0930hrs microbiology lab with Dr Graeme Jones (IK)
1200hrs Paediatric Liver Disease Hugh Greenwood LT Dr Nadeem Afzal (IK)
1300hrs meet Sue Barraclough in Poole (SB and FP)
1300hrs lunch (IK)
1330hrs cystic fibrosis clinic Southampton General Hospital (IK)
1930hrs dinner with visitors and local clinical team sponsored by Forest Labs
Wednesday 20th March
0900hrs specialist CF nursing and physiotherapy; Caroline and Judi (SB, FP)
1030hrs sweat testing childrens outpatients (SB and FP)
1100hrs specialist CF nursing and physiotherapy; Caroline and Judi (SB, FP)
0900hrs long term ventilation clinic Portsmouth to be taken by Dr Evans (IK)
1300hrs lunch (SB, FP and IK)
1400hrs Gym session with physiotherapists (FP)
1400hrs Shared Care Networks with Dr Julian Legg (IK and SB)
1500hrs Annual Reviews with Dr Hazel Evans (FP, IK and SB)
Thursday 21st March
0900hrs Respiratory outpatients Dr Connett, Dr Evans, Dr Legg (FP, IK, SB)
1300hrs lunch (FP, IK, SB)
1400hrs Bone mineralisation in cystic fibrosis Dr Justin Davies (FP, IK, SB)
1500hrs Infection control Dr Sanjay Patel (FP, IK, SB)