Volunteer hospitals update

Dr A is busy working with the team who will run Emmanuel* Hospital in Syria. We are waiting for the equipment to be delivered and we hope it will open in the next week. We had more than 150 local applicants offering their services as volunteers to work in this hospital! It will be staffed exclusively by volunteer doctors, nurses and support staff and will receive a lot of support from the local community meaning there are minimal overheads for this hospital. Our mobile operating room will be used with this hospital initially.

He also has meetings in the next week with the team who will staff and run Eliana* Hospital which we hope to open by the end of August. They are deciding on the most appropriate building to use and will start work on adapting it to make it fit for purpose. There is also a team of faithful doctors and nurses in this area who will staff this hospital on a voluntary basis, again, making it possible to run this hospital with minimal overheads.

We are also raising funds now for a larger hospital project that will serve a city in Syria. At the moment the only hospital offering free care to the poor in this city is largely dysfunctional and people cannot rely on being able to see a doctor there, have the investigations they need or be given the medications that are essential for treating their conditions. This will be our biggest project yet and we aim to raise £150,000 to support this work.

It is hard to believe that the current set up could be so poor for an area where there are 2 million residents who would be living around this area. When I think that the population of Sussex combined is around 1.6 million, it is hard to believe that such a large area in Syria could be without a proper, free emergency care provision. This is even harder bearing in mind that 3 in 4 people in Syria are living in poverty now. These people cannot afford to pay for healthcare, so what happens to these ordinary people when they are injured in a bomb attack or even just the day to day medical emergencies that people face anywhere in the world?

I used to be a nurse in the A&E department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and it was a big and busy department. There were other A&E departments in Haywards Heath, Worthing and Eastbourne, but it was still a big and very busy department. It is simply unimaginable that an area with a population of this size could be without a proper functioning hospital to serve these people in need, especially in a war zone where there are so many traumas.

The WHO reported recently that the life expectancy in Syria has dropped by 20 years, and the fact that emergency care is so terribly lacking gives a practical illustration of the process that leads to that.

I ask myself how the people in these areas cope with the battles life throws at them. Simply, they have no choice. They have to accept. What are their options? To accept, or to accept? Even if they don't want to accept, what can they do? What do they have with which to fight against this injustice? They have no choice but to accept death in situations where we would not accept something much less troubling.

When I think of the contrasts that exist between what we expect as our rights to healthcare here in the West, compared with what the Syrians have to accept, it really breaks my heart. Just some of the things I hear people complaining about here in the UK like having to wait a long time for an ambulance, when in Syria you would be lucky if you even had access to an ambulance. Our medical teams have cared for patients injured in explosions where patients seriously injured in a bomb attack were taken to hospital in the back of a pick up truck, or carried in people's bare hands. People complain about having to wait in A&E for a couple of hours, but in Syria people may not even be seen if they aren't ill enough or even if they are too sick.

They have to function on the basis of disaster management when dealing with such large numbers of sick and wounded at the same time. Patients who are not sick enough may not be treated, and those who are too sick may also have to be left. The focus has to be on the people somewhere in the middle who may die if not treated, but who stand a chance of recovery with treatment.

As a former nurse, I find it hard even to imagine having to make these kind of judgement calls for patients. Who do you try to save, and who do you leave? Can you turn away from the mother desperately trying to get someone to take a look at her four year old daughter who is in great pain and crying, while there is a young man who may lose his leg if he doesn't get immediate attention to deal with his wounds. The decisions they have to make are much tougher. It is life and death they are dealing with.

When we consider the luxuries that we have with free emergency care when we need it, and even perhaps when we don't, I ask ask each of us to consider what we could do to help our brothers and sisters in Syria who have no luxuries in healthcare. Please consider whether you could help us fundraise for our hospitals in Syria which are saving lives in areas where there is no emergency medical provision for people in need.

Every coffee morning, cake sale, non-uniform day at your child's school or school fair, every dinner or auction, every business that nominates us as their charity for the year, every charity car wash, bridge afternoon, every pamper day or evening, every marathon or sporting event, every ice cream sale, every music event.....the list of fundraising possibilities is bigger than I can think of. But every event you organise will save lives in Syria.

Please friends, give some thought about what you could do to make a difference to these people in Syria who have no choice but to accept.