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Bangalore Extends Its Helping Hands

St.John's Emergency Relief Teams, Bangalore  (29th Jan, 2001) Press Release

St.John's Emergency Relief Teams St.John's has always lead what is well known as the Bangalore Response to disasters in the Indian Peninsula since the early 1970s. They have sent teams to the West Bengal War Refugee Camps 1971; Andhra Pradesh Cyclone 1977; Bhopal Gas Tragedy; Bangladesh Cyclone 1991; Latur Khillari Marathwada Earthquake 1993 and as recent experience will indicate, been proactive in sending 3 medical teams to Orissa in the aftermath of the devastating cyclone in the October-November 1999. Medical personel (General Physcians, Surgeons, Epidemiologists, Pedaitricians, Orthopedicians, Ophthalmologists, Nurses ) numbering 32 divided into three teams worked over a period of over one month providing care for people effected in areas of Paradeep, Jagatsinghpur and Ersama areas of Orissa. These teams worked along side various organizations including Action Aid, Medicen sans Frontier, Community Health Cell, CHAI and even along with the Indian Army. Work included not only medical preventive and curative measures but more important work of clearing carcases, chlorinating wells, education, food, clothing and shelter material distribution as well as initiating rehabilitation programs. Each team spent 10-14 days in the field overlapping to ensure a continued intensive cover to areas most in need. It was following these experiences that St. John's Medical College decided on initiating a Disaster Relief and Training Unit in late 2000. It is this Unit that forms the catalyst for encouraging and planning man power needs for disaster relief teams, as in the present Gujarat scenario. Bangalore as a city has always responded positively especially since the media has brought disasters literaliy into the living room. St. John's Medical College was started in 1963 and is now a tertiary referral center with a very strong community health out reach program. The hospital is 25 years old and has a thousand beds. This multi speciality hospital caters to a wide population in and around Bangalore including Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In the year 1999-00, St.Johns' spent over three crores in concessional health care living up to its motto of " He shall Live Because of Me". The stress is on economical ethical "good" medical care. This institute has a unique 60 undergraduate intake per year and an excellent teaching program which includes a model for South Asia Medical Ethics Curriculum. Most specializations have postgraduate programs which only improves upon care provided by its dedicated and highly motivated faculty. This hospital is one of the first to have an independent Emergency medicine Department with dedicated faculty manning a triage area, intensive care and intermediate care unit. To assist the poor patient this hospital has another unique distinction of developing financial safety nets in the form of a Child For Life Fund and the Emergency Medicine Fund apart from the hospital medical social unit ability to offer people in need concessional care. St.John's is the only five star accredited medical college and hospital by the UGC's National Accreditation Council based on health care provided, facilities, research and academic programs. It is important to remember that St. John's is one of the few medical institutions in this country which bonds its students for a period of two years to serve in medically under-served areas of this country from port Blair (Andamans) to tribal areas of West Bengal. To date there have been over 2000 doctors who have served in these areas of India.

The first team of 10 medical personel from St. John's will leave Bangalore to fly to Ahmedabad for a period of 10-14 days. They will form the backbone of two more teams to follow in tradition of previous experiences. They are being coordinated from Bangalore to serve in areas most unserved especially rural areas effected by the earthquake in keeping with the ethos of the institution. They have already been briefed and received a "crash" course in disaster management at Bangalore and will proceed from Ahmedabad to areas choosen as Deesa, Radhanpur (which could change according to the volatility of the ground situation).with assistance from local conatacts already in place. They are a self dependent team with tents, ruck-sacks, sleeping bags, drinking water and dry food for 48 hours till base is established and supplies arranged by the team on the ground. They carry all standard Disaster WHO Essential Drugs and Material (amounting to 1.6 tonnes gross weight), communication equipment and will follow all standard treatment and procedural protocols. They are to establish a base camp and not become a burden to the already burdened population. The nature of the disaster and the local contact needs determine the first teams compostion which on follow up reports and visits will be changed accordingly based on ground needs. The team is not only ten members but a back-up logist team at home and replacements on stand by. The profile of the health personnel are as follows: 1. Dr. Venkatesh, Professor Biochemistry and High Altitude Medicine Specialist with over twenty years of mountaineering experiences. Team Manager (To set up, protect and establish base camp, communications and a working environment) 2. Dr. Sanjiv Lewin, Associate Professor Pediatrics and Clinical Ethics and Convenor Disaster Relief and Training Cell with three disaster relief team experiences of ten years experience. Team Coordinator (Team formation, orientation, kitting and motivation apart from field visits to assist in future decisions) 3. Dr. Arvind Kasturi, Associate Professor Community Health and Epidemiologist with two disaster relief team experiences of seven years experience. Second and Back up team Leader. 4. Dr. Ravi Narayan, Previously Professor Community Health and Epidemiologist, Convenor and Consultant, Community Health Cell. With twenty years experinence. Team Advisor. 5. Dr. Anand Alladi, Assistant Professor Pedaitric and General Surgery. With six years experience. 6. Dr. Sanjay, Assistant Professor, Anesthesia. With three years experience. 7. Nurse Seema Thomas, Senior Staff Orthopedic Nursing Specialist. With three years experience. 8. Dr. Olympio Fernandez, Lecturer, Emergency Medicine. With two years experience. 9. Dr. Gerald Vincent, Final year Pedaitric Postgraduate. With two years general duty experience. 10. Dr. George Clarence, Final Year Orthopaedic Postgraduate. With two year general duty experience. 11. Dr. Sr. Annie, Senior House Officer, Emergency Medicine, With two years experience. 12. Dr. Arama Periera, Junior Resident, General duty with a year experience. 13. Dr. Supriya Castellino, Junior Resident, General duty with a years experience. 14. Mr. Ramchandra, Communication Expert and HAM operator. With over twenty five years experience. 15. Mr. Jonathan, Blood Bank Technician, With over two years experience.

The team will be equipped to assist in handling patients with Orthopedic (Fractures, Trauma, sprains), Surgical (Blunt abdomen, Penetrating injuries, Chest injuries), General Medicine (Infections, critical care, stabilization, resuscitation), Gender issues (Obstetric and Gynecological problems), Pediatric (Child health, prevention and disease), Multi trauma, Procedures major and minor depending on ground realities, existing and incoming infrastructure to name a few. Coordination with other groups The St John's team will be working in coordination with the Disaster Relief and Training Cell at St. John's Bangalore and the Emergency Disaster Relief Team of Oxfam India Society headed by Dr. Unnikrishnan. It is Dr. Unnikrishnan who will liaise with identified grassroot based agencies / NGOs in the area presently choosen, Kutch Mahila Vikas Samiti, Bhuj and Anandini , the Bhansali Trust and Medico Friend Circle.

In Bangalore, the team will be aided by the IndiaCares, which will facilitate the interaction between and amongst the organisations involved and raise additional funding required to overcome immediate financial hurdles. They also facilitated the additional funding of this team.

Requirements for the team

The team will expect to be equipped with medicines as Internationally recommended based on the WHO Essential Drug List modified for the presently known situation. In addition to this they will require their needs of shelter (tents, bedding), food and drinking water, local transport, transport to the destination and communication to be met. Two more back up teams are being finalized and will proceed following information received from the field at intervals of 7 days. There will also be a visit by a coordinating team member overlapping each teams departure and arrival. After completion of the first phase of disaster management the team structure will be strengthened by a epidemic management and prevention team along with Psychiatric support team as days go by. We are also co-ordinating our efforts with a team of Doctors from NIMHANS for psycho-socio analysis and intervention. Efforts to raise financial resources for this team are already underway. Gujarat Earthquake First Team Update - 30th January 2001 The St. John's Team of ten health personnel flew by Indian Airlines at 5:45 pm to Ahmedabad carrying 1.6 tonnes of medical supplies based on WHO Essential Drug List for Disaster Relief. This team has been sponsored by Care India with assistance from Oxfam. The Pharmacy in charge and her staff packed over 1.6 tonnes of material within 5 hours and Central Store team added to the supplies during the same time. Medical Students assisted in the packing of the supplies and helped the team load and off load all 1.6 tonnes onto the vehicles and at the airport. The team arrived safely apart for a few broken bottles in the baggage! (Hopefully the bottles that broke are not the anesthesia bottles which would have knocked out a few at the airport!) They were met at the airport by Janavikas (the local NGO contact) who in turn put them up for the night at Ahmedabad. At 6:30 am this morning they were to drive down along with all their baggage and supplies to a destination in the Bhuj area. Within the next 5-6 hours we should have a HAM contact with them and know exactly where they are going to be based!

The team members are as follows:

* Dr. T. Venkatesh Professor Biochemistry Team Manager
* Nurse Sara Oomen Orthopedic Specialist Nurse
* Dr. Anand Alladi Assistant Professor Pedaitric Surgery
* Dr. Sanjay Assistant Professor Anesthesia
* Dr. Olympio Ledcturer Emergency Medicine
* Dr. George Clarence Postgraduate Orthopedics
* Dr. Gerald Vincent Postgraduate Pedaitrics
* Dr. Sr. Annie CMO Emergency
* Dr. Arama Periera Intern
* Dr. Supriya Cardoza Intern

This team will stay in the area for 7-10 days and after establishing a base will be replaced by two more teams to follow up at intervals of 5-7 days. The exact composition of the teams will depend on actual needs in the area.