White Coat Notes

Beth Israel Deaconess doctors assist on the ground in Tacloban; Philippine ‘city is in shambles’

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center  doctors Selwyn Mahon (standing, right), Prasit Wuthisuthimetawee (sitting center), and Asaad Alsufyani (sitting, back) assist Typhoon Haiyan survivors in Tacloban, at a tented clinic surrounded by the city’s ruins. (Courtesy photo/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center)
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center doctors Selwyn Mahon (standing, right), Prasit Wuthisuthimetawee (sitting center), and Asaad Alsufyani (sitting, back) assist Typhoon Haiyan survivors in Tacloban, at a tented clinic surrounded by the city’s ruins. (Courtesy photo/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center)
Dr. Selwyn Mahon, a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center fellow in disaster medicine, assists a patient in the Philippine city of Tacloban. (Courtesy photo)

Four Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center physicians trained in disaster relief treated nearly 800 patients on Wednesday and Thursday from a tented clinic near the site of a badly damaged hospital in the storm-shattered Philippine city of Tacloban.

“They have seen just horrific things and lots of it,” said Dr. Gregory Ciottone, an emergency physician who runs the hospital’s disaster fellowship program.

The team has been in the Philippines for about a week and will head home tomorrow to be replaced by a new set of volunteers from the hospital, who will partner with doctors and paramedics arriving from Abu Dhabi.

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Separately, Dr. Shawn D’Andrea, an international emergency medicine fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, planned to leave for the Philippines on Sunday to work with Remote Area Medicine and the Philippines Red Cross. And a team from Massachusetts General Hospital headed this week for the Western Visayas region.

Ciottone’s group on the ground in Tacloban mostly has been treating people with wounds suffered during and after the storm and has made some trips by helicopter into more remote areas to find the most injured people and bring them back for care in the city, he said.

The doctors are beginning to see cases of infectious diseases that are common when natural disasters wipe out public health infrastructure. Ciottone said they expect to see an increase of patients needing care for chronic conditions that have gone untreated since the storm.

Staving off those problems requires getting the city’s recovery underway.

“The quicker you can get your routine services back up and running, the better off you are,” he said.

But three weeks after Typhoon Haiyan hit, the region had seen little progress on that front, with some corpses remaining in the streets. “The city is in shambles,” Ciottone said.

The New York Times reported Friday that poor weather and the continued lack of shelter and clothing has put people at risk for respiratory infections, including pneumonia. Keith Bradsher reported :

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and are living under tarpaulins and in makeshift huts across Leyte Island and nearby islands. These simple structures are proving no match for torrential rain and a rapid alternation of chilly breezes and sweltering heat.

Three Philippines Department of Health officials said in separate interviews on Friday night that acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia, were the biggest single public health problem to emerge since the typhoon.

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