Missions of mercy to UAE labour camps

Many workers who saw the six blue tents appear in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi went inside to find doctors offering relief from painful and life-threatening ailments.

March 27, 2010 / Abu Dhabi / (Rich-Joseph Facun / The National) Abdul Lias Miah (CQ), center, is seen and diagnosed by Wafaa Ibrahim (CQ), left, a dentist with the Emirates National Mobile Medical Care  Hospital, Saturday, March 27, 2010 in Mussfah.
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ABU DHABI // Mohammed Abdurah was watching his friends play cricket when he noticed the six blue tents in the labour camp where he lives.

"I heard they were setting up a free clinic," he said. "Inshallah, I have no health problems." But last weekend, when his friend and co-worker Abdul Lias Miah, a steelworker from Bangladesh, was in agony over an infected tooth, Mr Abdurrah knew exactly where to bring him. Mr Miah's jaw was so swollen he could barely speak, so his friend helped him talk to the doctors who patiently noted his details: age, profession, mobile number.

Then he waited anxiously until Dr Wafaa Ibrahim, a dentist with the mobile hospital, could see him. He was diagnosed with an abscess. Dr Ibrahim gave him antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines and asked him to return a week later. Mr Miah could not thank her enough. "I will be able to sleep and eat something by tomorrow," he said. Mr Miah was just one of a few hundred patients who lined up yesterday outside the mobile clinic.

The Emirates National Mobile Medical Care Hospital began its first project in Musaffah last week. The doctors, mostly volunteers from Abu Dhabi Police, set up tents in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (Icad) to screen workers and provide dental services. It offers proper medical care to those in need without screening patients for financial documents. The mobile hospital has operated internationally during emergencies and in poor countries. And now it aims to travel throughout the emirates.

"We decided to set up in Icad because the need is there. This is a humanitarian, charity project," said Dr Steve Mosedale, a cardiac physiologist. The workers now have access to a number of specialists, including Dr Adel al Shamry, a heart surgeon who is also the head of the mobile unit. "Because with this facility, instead of them going somewhere we are going to them when they are free and at their place of residence," said Dr Mosedale.

The doctors did not advertise their arrival. Instead, Dr Mosedale said, "news spread by word of mouth" as soon as the tents were pitched. "We are starting off slow to see what sort of response we get," he said. In the three days they operated last week, they saw 500 patients. Dr Mosedale said that he had seen "patients with varying degree of complaints, complications and conditions" from skin allergies to diabetes. "What surprised us was the number of cases of undiagnosed hypertension. It has a potential for cardiac, retinal and renal disease if left untreated."

The doctors, along with volunteer nurses and translators, give out necessary medication. Many patients required supplements because they were undernourished, while others had to be advised about healthy eating habits. Surgeries are not being performed on site, but Dr Shamry has made arrangements with hospitals that will provide free care to referred patients. "We won't be there long-term, so if they have a problem and need to keep seeing a doctor, we are going to set it up," Dr Mosedale said.

This week, he and his colleagues hope to see some patients for return visits. "There are three or four who were not willing to go to the hospital, so we have asked them to come back. They are usually the ones with untreated hypertension." The objective of the mobile hospital is to stay in one place for a month, offering services three times a week, before moving to another emirate. The hospital is run by a board, comprised of partner organisations including the UAE Red Crescent Authority, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Health, the Zakat Fund and Al Noor Hospital. It is supported by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative to the Western Region and chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority.