When the earthquakes hit poor Nepal last spring I wanted to go and help but had commitments to my patients in Cambridge. I couldn’t get away for more than a couple of weeks, which wasn’t much use to anyone. That got me thinking and planning, and as my frustrations with the political shenanigans influencing the National Health Service grew, I decided to quit as a partner in General Practice. This wasn’t an easy decision.
I'd been at Petersfield Medical Practice for 15 years and I’ve formed close relationships with a lot of lovely people at work – both colleagues and patients. But the decision's made a now I am free to follow my heart and search for long-term development work.
S continues to do a lot of work overseas in “fragile states” and our plan is to try to get something together and, of course, we’d love to return to Nepal. This might happen early next year, but meanwhile I’ve hit a small lull. Or at least I thought I had until Medecins du Monde
said they could use me.
So my last GP clinic in England was on Monday and this coming Monday I shall be flying to Thessaloniki in north-east Greece to join a small multinational team who are providing healthcare for (mainly) Syrian refugees. I believe there are about 2000 living in tents in a warehouse and that warehouse is where I shall be for the next couple of months. I think we’ll be working in some other camps too.
I’ve had a load of jabs and am part way through a course of oral typhoid immunisation capsules. I've also bought an Arabic language book which has useful phrases in it like “The gardener comes on Sundays” and “Two tickets for the train to Cairo please” and “I want a cotton galabeyya”, but it should get me started: at least I'll be able to greet people properly and I can learn the numbers.
I am nervous though and wonder how deskilled I have become and indeed how well my surviving clinical skills will transfer for use in refugee work.
I understand there will be some internet so I hope to post a few thoughts and impressions over the weeks, although I expect the work will be pretty intense so we’ll have to see how much writing time I manage to secure.
Watch this space – as they say.
My next post (10days later) is here : In Diavata Camp