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The volunteers of the Polish Medical Mission began their work on Chios on Monday, 15 October. The island greeted them with sun, but they also immediately encountered the sad everyday life of refugees. A few days ago one of the boats sank. Most of the passengers died. We took part in a minute of silence in the main square of the city to commemorate the dead.
We work together with our partner, a Spanish organization, Salvamento Maritimo Humanitario. The partner provides basic medical care in the Vial refugee camp, located on the outskirts of the small town of Shalki, 15 km from the centre of the island. The SMH organization has been affording medical assistance to refugees on the island for about 3 years. It provides medical staff (mainly doctors and nurses) in the clinic at the camp, and also practically acts as an emergency room working 24 hours a day. The island of Chios with its about 60,000 residents have already adopted approx. 3,000 refugees. Although they are covered by full primary and second level medical care, in practice their access to Greek healthcare is limited.
Nurse Jolanta Frątczak and internal diseases doctor Magdalena Kopczyńska stepped into the shoes of medical team of the outgoing Spanish volunteers' group at the camp. They will stay here for 5 weeks. For them, it is the first trip with us. They quickly realized that the treatment they were used to in Poland could not be applied here. Greek doctors usually take care of urgent cases in the morning hours, while chronic patients come to the clinic in which we work. The most common health problem that we face are conditions with elevated pressure and diabetes. Due to the lack of regular care, chronically ill people have interruptions in taking of medications or take different types of medicines in an irregular way. We refer such cases to a hospital, but the administrative path that refugees have to go to get to a specialist is so complicated that there is often no visit. The biggest challenge is to quickly set up right medications for chronic patients. We also note that such untreated simple conditions as dental cavities or continuous sleeping on a cold floor without a mattress lead to other diseases, the cost of which is significantly higher.
Already on the first day of work, our nurse assisted at the landing or bringing boats ashore. It was about 30 people, mainly from Syria. During the first check of people going ashore, the nurse examined the temperature in the children, she had to assess whether someone needed urgent help, examine blood pressure, and also the health status of the pregnant. Her duty was to select people who needed immediate help, for example, dressing wounds.
This week, our team is still working with two SMH doctors, from Switzerland and Spain, and with a nurse from Israel. Our team is on-duty in the camp every other day.