In the Philippines to help care for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, a Mass General disaster response team is setting up rural health centers in some of the areas hardest hit. On the ground since Tuesday, Nov. 19, to work with the International Medical Corps, the seven-person team has traveled to towns such as Bitoon and Dalingding from its base in the city of Cebu. Hundreds of residents from such communities are seeking medical aid. Indeed, during one 90-minute period earlier this week, the MGH team treated 125 Filipinos. For some, it was their first experience seeing a doctor.
On a mission to reach remote areas of the island nation hit by Typhoon Haiyan, MGH team members are treating diarrheal disease due to a lack of clean water. Working from makeshift medical outposts, they are also seeing cases of tetanus, caused by untreated wounds. Other health concerns in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan include chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Outbreaks of rabies and measles are a growing issue.
Explaining Wound Care in Tagalog
Two members of the MGH team are fluent in Tagalog, a common language in the Philippines, and are spending a good deal of time with patients, explaining medications and wound care.
As MGH team members move into increasingly remote areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan, one of their first orders of business will be to assess the greatest medical needs of the residents they encounter, with an eye toward marshaling the resources needed to meet them. In the meantime, the Mass General caregivers will be living in shared tents and carrying “go bags” containing their own food and living necessities. They are also transporting team bags filled with medical supplies and medication for the wounded.
Team leader Miriam Aschkenasy, MD, deputy director for disaster response at the Mass General Center for Global Health, says that the signs of devastation from Typhoon Haiyan are visible everywhere in many areas. Dr. Aschkenasy says that, while on the move, her group has seen kids playing on power lines, people waiting in line for well water and houses with tops blown off entirely or curled up like the top of an open can of tuna.
“I’m a big proponent of the professionalism of disaster response,” Dr. Aschkenasy explains. “In Haiti, we saw a lot of spontaneous volunteers, which can cause problems. Our goal is to provide professional care.” An expert in disaster response, Dr. Aschkenasy has spent 15 years in the field responding to disasters including Katrina, Haiti and El Salvador.
“Our nurses and doctors need equipment, medications, telecommunications and training to be ready to serve our global community at a moment’s notice,” Dr. Bangsberg says.
Ongoing Typhoon Haiyan Needs
Mass General is well trained in disaster response. Within 24 hours of the request to deploy after Typhoon Haiyan, Mass General put together a team of four nurses, two doctors and a pharmacist. Five are experts in disaster response. “I’ve never worked in a hospital that so fully backs the deployment of its staff,” Dr. Aschkenasy says.
Meanwhile, in Boston, caregivers at the Mass General Center for Global Health are engaged in ongoing consultations with international partners who have asked them to prepare to dispatch additional teams to areas of the Philippines slammed by Typhoon Haiyan. Hilarie Cranmer, MD, MPH, the center’s director of disaster response, is leading that effort. “Our goal is simple,” Dr. Cranmer says, “We provide care for people in need.” Nearly 400 Mass General employees have already volunteered to take part in additional missions to the Philippines.
David Bangsberg, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Global Health, says charitable gifts of support are crucial to the center’s ongoing commitment to mounting professional responses to such disasters. “Our nurses and doctors need equipment, medications, telecommunications and training to be ready to serve our global community at a moment’s notice,” Dr. Bangsberg says. “We cannot fulfill this critical mission without flexible, unrestricted funding and philanthropy plays an important role in meeting that need.”
You Can Help
Please visit the Mass General Center for Global Health Facebook Page page for updates on the situation and Mass General’s response.
We thank you for your generosity and giving spirit to help those so desperately in need.
(All photos by Jacob Schafer – International Medical Corps)