The human cost of political corruption

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Seen by Many as Contributing to the Genocide in The Democratic Republic of The Congo as well as to the Lack of Access to Medical Care by Some of New Jersey’s Most Vulnerable Back Pain Sufferers

July 29, 2013, Newark, NJ - Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie contributing to the genocide in the Congo?

This is the question now being asked by many concerned New Jersey residents who read and viewed the Op Doc piece, Congo: The Road to Ruin, that appeared last week in the New York Times. It shed light on a new documentary, "This is Congo" currently being filmed by Congolese native James Macabe, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The film highlights the "violent saga" that has consumed the city of Goma and the surrounding region since 1998 -- the same region that New Jersey's embattled minimally invasive spine surgical pioneer Dr. Richard A. Kaul has focused his philanthropic work for The Spine Africa Project (SAP).

A petition is now being circulated online which will be sent to Governor Christie. It speaks of the hardships for thousands of patients, both in New Jersey and in the DRC that have been left unable to receive the proper surgical care that Dr. Kaul was able to give those suffering extreme pain before his license was suspended by the State’s Medical Board at the behest of Governor Christie and his valuable plethora of financial donors who are New Jersey-based neurosurgeons. Some political insiders are already referring to the evolving scandal as “Jerseygate.”

Dr. Kaul, born in India into one of the country’s most powerful political families (he belongs to the Nehru-Kaul Dynasty) is the founder and President of The Spine Africa Project. Dr. Kaul, a Board Certified Minimally Invasive Spine Specialist by profession, founded this initiative after a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008. This trip was prompted by a speech regarding the sexual violence against women in the Congo by Dr. Roger Luhiriri of The Panzi Hospital. Upon his visit, Dr. Kaul was confronted by the shocking lack of protocol for spinal injuries at the hospitals and clinics throughout the Congo. Despite the alarmingly high rate of spinal injuries due to the dangerous working conditions, the injuries from the civil war that had permeated the Congo from Rwanda, no protocols existed for spine injuries. Consequently, the life expectancy for someone afflicted with a spine injury is less than two years.

The good work that Dr. Kaul performed at the Panzi Hospital, whose Medical Director is Dr. Denis Mukwege, an internationally known Congolese physician celebrated for his humanitarian medical aid to violently abused female victims of rape and torture, has been put on hold.

The powers in New Jersey in the Christie administration along with a small group of neurosurgeons embarked last year on a witch hunt to silence Dr. Kaul and prevent him from practicing medicine, not only in New Jersey but anywhere in the world. As a result, this has affected adversely patients in the DRC as well as in New Jersey. Instead, Dr. Kaul has had to divert his resources to fight expensive legal battles in New Jersey that not only cost him personally, but also the taxpayers of the state, a cost to them in excess of one million dollars. This has had a direct consequence on the mortality rate of many in the Congo who could have been saved if Dr. Kaul had been able to continue making trips to Bukavu, where he performed multiple procedures in the Panzi Hospital. Through the Spine Africa Project, Dr.Kaul and his team were able to positively impact the lives of many affected residents and refugees of the Civil War. Now, the men, women and children of the Congo are desperate for the medical aid from the Spine Africa Project to resume.

Dr. Kaul has long been lauded as a pioneer in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and performed the first outpatient spinal fusion in New Jersey. He is the Medical Director at The New Jersey Spine and Rehabilitation Surgical Center, an outpatient Ambulatory Surgical Center, where he has been revolutionizing Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. From 2005 to 2012 he successfully performed over 800 minimally invasive spine surgeries, and effectively moved complex spine surgery into the outpatient setting. His cases have been featured in several international newspapers, magazines and he has made several national television appearances.

Dr. Kaul’s medical training is as extensive as it is impressive. Dually trained in both the United Kingdom and the United States, after his graduation from The Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London in 1988 he maintained positions as the Surgical House Officer and Medical House Officer at both the Lister Hospital and The Royal Free Hospital in the UK. After coming to America in 1989, he held several Residency and Attending positions at hospitals including Columbus Hospital, St. Claire’s Hospital and Hackensack University Medical Center. Throughout his career, Dr. Kaul has traveled extensively educating doctors on his methods and instituting several new protocols for hospitals internationally.

According to Dr. Luhiriri, Executive Director of The Spine Africa Project, “this frivolous campaign by the state of New Jersey against Dr. Kaul has in effect killed many poor Congolese refugees because they now die before they are able to receive proper medical attention. Before his persecution and the suspension of his medical license, Dr. Kaul had an excellent platform from which to raise funds for The Spine Africa Project. It is immoral what Gov. Christie is allowing to happen because he is so thirsty for power and money.”

Noella Coursaris Munsunka, a tireless international fundraiser for the New York-based Georges Malaika Foundation whose mission is to “empower through education,” by providing opportunities to young girls in her native country, the DRC, is an outspoken advocate for Dr. Kaul. She says that she hopes that the situation in New Jersey is “quickly resolved so that Dr. Kaul, a talented, compassionate and popular surgeon, can once again devote his time and resources to helping the citizens of my country.”

Dr. Kaul adds, “it saddens me that my patients both in New Jersey and in the Congo are being punished and denied proper care because of rampant greed and corruption fostered by the Governor and his financial supporters in the neurosurgical field. It is a disgrace and the people of New Jersey must be made aware of what has happened.”

Dr. Kaul is a member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and the Society for Advanced Spinal Intervention (SASI).

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