Interview with Lauren Cooney on conditions faced by MSF staff in the Vavuniya District, Sri Lanka.
Over the last few weeks, while tens of thousands of people have emerged from the Vanni, the former conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka, MSF teams have been working alongside Sri Lankan Ministry of Health staff providing surgical and medical care to people who were caught up in the fighting. The situation remains extremely worrying inside the hospitals and among the 269,000 displaced people in Vavuniya District. More than 500 wounded patients are receiving daily medical care in the three hospitals where MSF teams are working together with the Ministry of Health staff. MSF opened a field hospital close to the Menik Farm camps on May 22. It is the closest referral hospital for the 226,000 displaced people living in Menik Farm. The temporary structure will provide 24 hour surgical and medical care during the current emergency phase. Surgical activities began on Tuesday, May 26. The surgical team is carrying out between six and 10 procedures per day, mainly wound debridements. “Patients are mainly referred to our hospital by the Ministry of Health medical facilities in Menik Farm camp”, explained Severine Ramon, MSF coordinator for the field hospital. “We received more than 100 patients during the first week, mostly with wound infections, severe respiratory infections among children and dehydration because of diarrhea. But the current restrictions on access to the camps is limiting and slowing are ability to respond to the medical needs of the internally displaced persons.” MSF continues to support the Ministry of Health surgical and medical activities in Vavuniya Hospital where the number of patients remains at least three times more than the 450-bed capacity. MSF has set up a dressing clinic close to the wards and the team is applying and changing approximately 60 dressings per day. There are 100 care takers who tend to the patients in the hospital, feeding and assisting them. Dozens of people have been referred from Vavuniya Hospital to the nearby Pampaimadu Ayurvedic Hospital to receive post-operative care, including physiotherapy. A small operating theatre has been set up in the hospital for minor surgical procedures.