A field hospital staffed with mostly NHS workers is due to arrive in Turkey this weekend in the first of its kind to be sent from Britain. It comes as a UK appeal to aid rescue efforts and support victims raised more than £50m in two days.
After being approved by Turkey on Thursday night, the hospital, run by the independent NGO UK-Med, was due to arrive in the disaster-struck country by plane from the UK on Saturday.
The 67 sq metre tented polyclinic has its own infrastructure, staff, housing, medication, supplies and water sanitation so that it can be self-sufficient. The facility, which is the only British WHO-approved “type 1” hospital, can treat up to 100 patients a day as outpatients and will focus on minor trauma, stabilisation, outpatient care, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and general practice.
Its 32 staff – 18 of who are on loan from the NHS – will include physicians, nurses, water and sanitation hygiene engineers, logistics staff, medical coordinators, paramedics and community workers. The hospital will initially be there until 31 March.
The team on Saturday was still waiting to find out where it was going to be stationed, but staff were at first due to travel to Gaziantep.
UK-Med said the facility would work alongside a larger MOD-run “type 2” field hospital, which will concentrate on surgery and high levels of trauma.
“Many people have lost family and loved ones but also have lost access to medication and treatments,” said Dr Ram Vadi, the health director at UK-Med.
“You can imagine if you live in a house and your house has been destroyed, if you’re on long-term treatment for diabetes or cardiovascular issues and you don’t have that treatment, life in some ways goes on from a health perspective.”
As well as the cold weather conditions and infrastructural damage, one of the biggest challenges to staff will be the number of patients. “The volume of patients that they will be presented with will be a unique challenge,” said Vadi. “I’m sure they are more than capable to handle that, but it will be a busy few weeks.”
The death toll from the disaster, which happened in the early hours of 6 February, has exceeded 25,000 – with thousands more left injured or homeless.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together 15 leading UK aid charities, announced on Saturday that their appeal had raised £52.8m in two days – including £5m in aid match from the UK government.
The DEC chief executive, Saleh Saeed, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to the British public for their hugely generous response to this horrific disaster. It’s impossible not to see the images on TV and hear the stories coming from Turkey and Syria and not be moved.
“Compassion comes in many forms, but we are urging people to donate money rather than things. What people in Turkey and Syria need today may not be what they need tomorrow and giving cash means that DEC charities can get help to people quickly and provide a wide range of support over a longer period of time.”