Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Day 9 SAMS Global Response

Another frustrating morning in clinic. Patients we had referred to hospital came back to us saying they had been treated by a humiliating fashion, laughed at and their needs not paid attention to. A woman sent for a neurology review due to constant migraines was instead given a chest X-Ray and sent away with antibiotics. After breaking down crying in the hospital at being treated like this, an Arabic speaker had noticed her and directed her to the right department, but the damage had been done. Dr Mohammed had to console the woman on her return to camp, and placate her furious husband who was declaring he would rather go back to Turkey or Syria than endure this. Mohammed reckoned it was prejudiced beliefs - that all the refugees had TB - that led to the woman being treated this way.

A big problem is lack of translators in the hospitals. Dropping people off for blood tests is fine. When people need a complex examination or consultation, language is a huge barrier. MSF has cultural liaison officers (translators by another name) in three of the four main hospitals, but they aren't always available, or are needed by too many patients.

We are planning to recruit volunteers from the local Arab community to fill this need. The long standing Arabic cultural centre in Thessaloniki is connecting us with local residents who are fluent in Arabic and Greek who can accompany patients to their appointments. We're hoping to trial this for a month to see if it works and improves the care patients receive in hospital.

When we were out of the camp for lunch we received a call from
NGO Rowing Together. They provide gynaecology and obstetrics service across all the camps in the Thessaloniki region. One of the women they had been assessing at Iliadis had gone in to labour, and they wanted to know if we could get the woman to hospital. It would be unsafe to transfer a woman in labour on our patient shuttle so they got the camp police to call an ambulance, and she was picked up within an hour and taken to hospital. She gave birth this evening to a baby girl. It's not the first birth from the camp (we're currently treating a woman who had a Caesarean section last month) but it all seems to have gone smoothly which is a cause for relief and celebration.

In the evening a few of us went to the Arabic cultural centre to discuss the plan for the translator. It may be a bit harder than planned as there is huge demand among NGOs for Arabic/Greek translators, and we may struggle to find someone. The directer of the centre will look for us and hopefully a reliable volunteer can be located in the next few days.

We went on a wander through Thessaloniki afterwards. The night was cool and there was a pleasant breeze from the sea as we went along the waterfront. The city centre was busy and full of young people. Despite the crisis people are out enjoying themselves.

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