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First Hand Accounts of Two Doctors Undertaking a Relief Work in Gujarat
Source: Extracted with permission from private email message received by Doctor, Associate professor, Dept of Surgery, LTM Medical College, Bombay 400 022.. (All names and personal information were deleted to protect privacy of sender).

Date: January 30, 2001

The medical work is on the wane. Everyone alive has been evacuated and everyone else is presumed dead. Most of the patients who need definitive medical treatment are out of the quake area and in the ditrict level hospitals (which are hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with most routine work, let alone a major calamity like this) At any rate, the wards are all out in the open as the after shock scare is keeping people from using the buildings. The Civil hospitals are full of patients. The patients are out in Mehsana, Patan, Deesa, Palanpur and some in Rajkot. The medical rescue in the areas closer to the epicenter are working out of camps; so the work they can do in terms of surgery is limited for want of X-Ray machines (all work essentially being Orthopaedic). Most of the work on the front has been amputations and there is no back log. The district hospitals have a large Operative waiting list. But before you get excited and want to contribute your surgical expertise, please be warned that most of the local doctor groups (mostly private practioners) have taken over the defunct District level Hospitals and are resenting any outside help! A team from Bombay which was flown in by the airforce into Bhuj on the same evening of the earthquake was told that they are not required, Quote "please leave all your one and a half tons of equipment and the 350 bags of blood here and there are table tennis tables arranged upstairs for your recreation!"

The Earth movers have just started to move in. The is plenty of concrete to be lifted. In towns like Bachao where barely one-tenth of the population has survived and where not one house has been left standing, the moot point is whether to write-off the town and start afresh! The place is teeming with rescue workers and there is sheer chaos (Latur revisited!). RSS and BJP dominate, again resenting "outsiders". Ofcourse, the opportunists and the politicians are making a killing and adding to the chaos. The really committed people ( who actually did get to do some work and were not shunted around like most of the early rescue groups who arrived) are close to exhaustion. All those who want to help, would best come to replace and relieve the early rescue workers and take over work from them, rather than have an independant agenda. Rehab workers are welcome.

We are in a bigger hospital at Deesa. I have 200 patients to attend to and I wish I had some help. Unfortunately, all the experienced Orthopaedic Surgeons have moved into the interiors, while all the patients have moved out, so there is not much of real work that they can do. I would need atleast four more Orthopaedic surgeons (preferably, midlevel) who can tackle the complex fractures, spine fractures with paraparesis and most importantly, look after post operative patients, as all the private practitioners and the first group of surgeons who helped out have returned to their practices/homes. All those looking for great operative surgery, please excuse.

Please contact before coming. Ortho surgeons, please contact ...for the wish list of implants needed.