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The hospital on Middle Island / Myanmar
October 31, 2008
By The IRC
Myanmar. In the five months since Cyclone Nargis struck the coast of Myanmar, I have had the opportunity to meet some remarkable people. One of them is Dr. Zaw Thein Kyaw, the only doctor at Ma Gyi Bin Station Hospital on Middle Island in the south west of the Irrawaddy Delta. With assistance from the IRC, Dr. Zaw has been working tirelessly to provide medical care to people in need, despite limited resources. The Ma Gyi Bin Station Hospital is the main health center in the region, serving some 45,000 people. When I first visited it, the hospital was severely damaged, its roof leaking, windows broken, walls and interior severely water damaged and its equipment in a state of disrepair. Its small stock of medicine is still not adequate for its needs, while its 50 beds are crammed into an area designed for only 16. Dr. Zaw accepts these challenges and works diligently every day to do what he can for his patients. On a day in September when IRC staff were visiting, he performed three life-saving operations in a row. On another day he performed six hours of surgery on a young woman, even without all the equipment necessary for such a major operation, and saved her life. The IRC began supporting Dr. Zaw in June by supplying clean water to the hospital and Ma Gyi Bin village. Since then, the IRC has also helped repair the damaged building and delivered medicine and surgical equipment. Dr. Zaw recently told me a story that highlights the challenges of providing healthcare in the region and how the IRC can help. An old woman was bitten by a cobra and had to be brought to the hospital by boat from her village, a journey of about an hour. Dr. Zaw didn’t have any snake bite serum available so he did what he could before sending the woman on a 6 hour boat ride to a bigger hospital upriver. Sadly, she died during the trip. After talking with Dr. Zaw about this tragedy, the IRC was able to provide the hospital with 20 units of snake bite serum. The next time a snake-bite victim appears at the hospital, emergency treatment will be available. The IRC is also going to provide a number of boats for Middle Island. Some will be used as ambulance boats to help people reach the hospital quickly in an emergency. In a country where everyone travels by boat, ambulance boats are a necessity to make sure that the sick, injured or dying can reach a hospital in time for treatment. Other boats will be used to provide mobile medical services such as assisting the local midwife to carry out her health activities around the widespread villages in her area. The IRC is currently putting some $84,000 of work and supplies into the Ma Gyi Bin Station Hospital. Among the supplies are a new operating table to replace the dilapidated one currently being used, extra surgical equipment, a solar-powered refrigerator for blood samples and a generator so that treatment can continue even if the electricity goes out. With the help and support of the IRC, Dr. Zaw is finally able to give the people of Ma Gyi Bin the medical care they need and deserve.A guest post from Gordon Bacon, the International Rescue Committee’s emergency coordinator in