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Doctor’s global efforts helped her during covid

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By Fiona Reid
Doctor’s global efforts helped her during covid

A DOCTOR from Dumfries and Galloway Doctor says fighting diphtheria in Bangladesh and delivering emergency care in Myanmar, Jordan and Gaza has helped her to fight covid back home.

Emergency medicine doctor Freda Newlands is usually based at DGRI but spent six weeks with frontline medical aid charity UK-Med supporting doctors and nurses to treat diphtheria patients in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh in 2018.

She also spent six months both on the North Jordan border with Medicine Sans Frontier treating war wounded patients in 2015 and with Médecins du Monde in Gaza, training healthcare workers to prepare for mass-casualty events in 2019.

And she says those experiences helped prepare her for the fight against covid in the last couple of years.

Dr Newlands said: “It builds your resilience, your capability, and ability to feel calm. I think it’s very good to have worked in low resource hospitals so that you’re able to appreciate what you’ve got and what’s available at home.”

Discussing her time in Bangladesh, she said: “We had to develop charts for monitoring blood pressures and temperatures and develop our own drug regimens for the diphtheria antitoxins because there were none.

“You’d work in the evening to try and think with a small team of other UK-Med clinicians: This is the problem. How can we get around this? How are we going to delegate these tasks to others to help us?”

Explaining more about her work in the Middle East, she added: “You have to take some time out and recognise that you have to get away from it – which was more challenging when you’re overseas as you can’t necessarily do that.

“In Jordan and in Gaza, due to security we were not able to even walk outside our house and hospital.

“In the emergency department, I think we’re very bad at taking breaks especially when there’s a queue of patients out the door. You do have to have some-kind of escape valve.”

Her comments come as findings from a new report produced by UK-Med highlights how doctors and nurses who’ve returned from international emergency medical responses bring vital skills and experience back to the NHS, particularly in relation to covid.

Dr Newlands agrees that she drawn from her overseas experience to adapt medical emergency simulation training sessions for GPs during the pandemic and use her skills from those times, saying: “We have had some pretty tragic events happen locally, it is difficult for staff to switch off. So I helped to try and organise departmental walking groups so we can get out into the hills.”

UK-Med is a Manchester based charity with more than 25 years-experience responding to health emergencies around the world

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