Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Unite must call strike action against the Pay Cap, and unite with the RCN in its fight

It is welcome news that the government is planning to life the pay cap on public sector employees. This has been reported across various media outlets as a major concession, but the details point to this being a very weak offer, with little substance in reality. The pay cap would be removed with an offer of a 2.6% pay rise in line with inflation, and some wage rises targeted at professions which are struggling to recruit and retain; mainly nurses and teachers.

This 2.6% would do little to redress the 10-15% reduction in pay public sector workers have endured over the last decade, and would do little for the lowest paid, for who 2.6% of an already low wage is a marginal amount. 

Unite should take the lead in rejecting this meagre offer, demand a serious pay rise from the government, and back this up with the threat of sustained industrial action. That the government is offering this amount at all is a sign of their weakness. Much more could be achieved by applying public pressure to them via strike action. Now is the time to act.


Monday, 12 September 2016

Day 10 and 11 SAMS Global Response: last days

Day 10 started with the penultimate Project Awesome session. We did push ups, sit ups, burpees and ran lengths of the grass before heading back to the hotel for breakfast and the morning briefing.

After the briefing we had a team leaders meeting, to try and work out issues we were having at the camp. Previously we had been feeding back problems to Alison the Medical Coordinator, but she was a bit overwhelmed and we realised it was quicker and simpler, and reduced her workload if the team leaders met each day to brainstorm common problems occurring in clinics. We identified lack of translations for patients at hospitals, and lack of guidelines for treatment or management of common conditions as pressing issues. It was also thought that team leader meetings would help new team leaders with handover and ensure better continuity given the regularly changing stream of volunteers.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Day 9 SAMS Global Response

Another frustrating morning in clinic. Patients we had referred to hospital came back to us saying they had been treated by a humiliating fashion, laughed at and their needs not paid attention to. A woman sent for a neurology review due to constant migraines was instead given a chest X-Ray and sent away with antibiotics. After breaking down crying in the hospital at being treated like this, an Arabic speaker had noticed her and directed her to the right department, but the damage had been done. Dr Mohammed had to console the woman on her return to camp, and placate her furious husband who was declaring he would rather go back to Turkey or Syria than endure this. Mohammed reckoned it was prejudiced beliefs - that all the refugees had TB - that led to the woman being treated this way.

A big problem is lack of translators in the hospitals. Dropping people off for blood tests is fine. When people need a complex examination or consultation, language is a huge barrier. MSF has cultural liaison officers (translators by another name) in three of the four main hospitals, but they aren't always available, or are needed by too many patients.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Day 7 & 8 SAMS Global Response

Day 7 and 8 SAMS Global Response
Sunday was a quiet day. We had several new doctors, translator and volunteers arrive, and we had to say good bye to several whose time with SAMS had finished. The new volunteers were welcomed in the morning meeting then sent to different camps to get a feel for the work. The new community triage officers were also being trialled at some of the camps. Thankfully it was quiet day at the clinic so they weren't overwhelmed, although one or two apparently found it quite challenging and didn't wish to continue. Things were a little eventful as we had to send a pregnant patient to hospital for an obstetrics review as she was at term. The practice in Greece is to induce labour if it has not already begun at this point. Given the conditions in the camps, this was judged the safer option than waiting for labour to begin naturally. An ambulance was called and the woman was sent to hospital accompanied by a friend. Her husband had to wait till the next day to go and see her, as the hospital wouldn't accommodate anyone overnight. 
Sunday afternoon we went for lunch in the nearby town of Sindos, it was nice to have the whole team together and not have to rush back off to clinic, and the new volunteers got to meet everyone.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Day 5 SAMS Global Response: Return to Karamanli

Today me and Omar were assigned to recruit for the trauma support initiative. We started at Karamanli. This was the first camp SAMS opened a clinic in, and where I did a few shifts back in May.

The camp has developed since then, with the clinic moving into proper office space, a school being built and organised, and a lot more infrastructure being put in place. The refugees were still living in tents in the warehouse, but there is now a small shop run by refugees, alongside a government shop that distributes consumables on a points system, giving people the chance to choose their own food, wash products or clothes. There is also a tailor who comes to the camp and works for free several hours a week, repairing  and making clothes. A dentist visits every fortnight, and residents from nearby camps can be brought over for treatment. There is a play area for kids, and a cafe with board games. There is even an area set aside for a gym, but no equipment just yet. The residents work out using makeshift equipment at the moment.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Day 4 SAMS Global Response: coffee and counselling

Today was a calm day in the camp. We saw a steady flow of people. A few of the sick children we saw earlier in the week had recovered from their coughs and fevers and were repaying us by hanging around the clinic and subjecting us to sweet but annoying pestering that only young children are capable of. Clambering on the waiting benches, grabbing pens and pencils off the triage desk, and trying to take gloves from the wound dressing box served as their main source of amusement for much of the day.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Day 3 SAMS Global Response

The day started with an early morning exercise session run by the field coordinator. It's done Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to help maintain the physical and mental well being of volunteers. Alongside this there is a weekly welfare meeting where volunteers can raise issues about the work, and any problems and pressures they may be experiencing.

We did half an hour of intense cardio exercise then went off to breakfast and the morning briefing.

After the briefing we headed back to Iliadis, now with a Syrian doctor with us as part of the team. Mohammed (not his real name) is a recently arrived refugee from Syria. He had been living in Eastern Syria, but ISIS tyrannical rule had forced him to leave with his family.

Mohammed had been working as a volunteer in various projects in Athens supporting refugees there with medical care, until he was recruited by SAMS to work in the camps in Northern Greece.