Thursday, 9 June 2016
Volunteering with SAMS in Greece: Inside a government camp
Mark Boothroyd recently spent time volunteering with the Syrian American Medical Society team in Greece. You can read the start of his diary entries here.
26 May: Day three with SAMS Global Response.
We headed out to camp Hara again, set up the clinic and began seeing patients. There was more of a challenge today as we didn't have a Farsi translator today and about a third of the patients only spoke Farsi. We tried as best we could, with those refugees who knew a little English translating for those who knew none.
There was a two year old with a second degree burn on her forearm, a 60 year old needing BP medication for his cardiac condition, lots of blisters and cut feet from walking miles and attempting to cross the border. Lots of sore throats and children with colds and coughs. We saw 64 patients today.
Zaher Sahloul, President of SAMS came down to observe the clinic and thank us for our work. He has been visiting the Global Response team for the past week to participate and check on its work.
A few of us who work in the NHS agreed to create networks for SAMS in each profession, in order to draw more healthcare workers into its work.
Today I was assigned to the team covering one of the government camps that have been set up to take refugees from Idomeni. These camps are being set up and run by the Greek military, and are scattered around Thessaloniki.
SAMS currently covers just this one camp, but is looking to cover more as they are set up.
After restocking at the pharmacy we headed down to Sindos. The camp doesn’t have an official name yet, so everyone calls it Sindos after the nearby town, and because this translates as heaven. Some dark humour has to be allowed in this situation.
There is lots of room for improvement though and the hope is the refugees can self-organise and take over much of the running of the camp, for the duration of their stay. Whether the Greek authorities will be amenable to that is another matter.
Clinic was slow at first, but towards the end we were almost overwhelmed by a stream of complex cases. A child with suspected measles had to be sent to hospitals for tests and to isolate him from the unvaccinated children in the camp. Thousands of Syrian kids have missed out on vaccinations, so the threat of contagious disease in the camp environment is very real.
There were a lot of sick children with fevers, coughs and colds, which their parents were pretty stressed about, but which weren’t life threatening. The fact the clinic operates daily means following up patients is relatively simple, so prescribing lots of fluid, children’s paracetamol and cough syrup for symptoms was a valid treatment given the team could check on them the next day. The doctors drew on their own experience as parents to make some amazing diagnoses, and it was a pleasure and a relief when something that the parents thought very serious, was easily treatable.
Sadly some of the team left today, their efforts will be sorely missed. More volunteers will arrive over the weekend so there are fresh teams to handle next weeks clinics.