On a frustrating day looking for locum shifts, I was invited to volunteer with Medicines Du Monde as a GP on the Greece and FYROM (aka Macedonia) border.
I replied instantly.
I am part of a vibrant team from Medicines du Monde (MDM) Greece, Switzerland and UK. We consist of doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, coordinators, and admin staff. The refugees who pass through are overwhelmingly grateful for our service. Those travelling through are everyday people- baristas, students, doctors, unemployed, families, young and old.
Each refugee has paid thousands to make a difficult and dangerous journey fleeing violence and poverty.
As a doctor you are privileged with a position where people share their stories. People here are brave, determined and hopeful for a better beginning, a new start away from war and lack of opportunity.
THE MDM CLINIC
We work out of two 27m2 tents. Part of the enjoyment of working here is the participation in setting up and equipping the clinic from the drugs, running of the pharmacy, general medical procedures, and coordination of staff. There are 3 other medical providers here, and we meet weekly to coordinate and cover the site 24 hours a day.
People transiting the area are now up to an average of 8500. Patients come in flux from either Syria or Afghanistan, and a minority from Iran, Iraq and the occasional patient from the African continent and other countries. We see approximately 200 patients per day, with one third being minors. Older adults and those with physical disabilities also make this incredibly arduous journey.
Upper and lower respiratory tract problems, diarrhoea, skin problems and injuries are the most common presentations. We see fewer patients with exacerbations of their chronic diseases, and rarely people with cancer needing treatment, and young children with severe disabilities. Many are simply exhausted with lack of sleep, anxiety, and stress. There are a few emergencies a week that require hospital transfer.
As well as our own interpreter, refugees who can translate are eager to help and contribute too. I see our patients getting a lot from being listened to carefully.
From the gratitude of our patients I can see that we are doing a worthwhile job in relieving some of their suffering, giving advice and reassurance.
WHY DO THIS WORK?
I can maximise the skills I have, and the work is thankful- there is a real medical need. I learn a lot from the collaboration with my international colleagues. I have developed skills in coordination, planning, and formulating and organising a pharmacy. While doing this, I have been consciously tweaking my communication and negotiation skills to do the best for our team.
One of the biggest benefits here over my NHS job is I get maximal patient time, I have no paperwork, I do not have to file any results, or worry about QOF or targets- which is for me what I got into this for.
If your thinking about doing this, contact Doctors of the World UK who are currently recruiting GPs for a minimum of one month. I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Kiran Cheedella is a Freelance GP