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Red Cross Temporary Emergency Field hospital closes in Aceh

Thursday June 2, 2005

A Red Cross field hospital in Banda Aceh has closed today, having treated more than 10,000 patients in the last four months.

The 100-bed tent hospital was donated by the Norwegian Red Cross following the December earthquake and tsunami and started receiving patients on 15 January. It was set up in coordination with the Indonesian health authorities to provide temporary support for health-care facilities in Banda Aceh, which had been severely damaged and had lost many staff.

Initially it treated badly injured tsunami victims, but later functioned more and more as a general hospital. During its four months of service, over 9,500 outpatients and 875 admitted patients received treatment free of charge and over 90 children were born there.

During the peak period, the hospital employed 36 foreign staff, including five Australian Red Cross nurses, as well as some 150 Indonesians. The Red Cross also provided a helicopter which was used to bring in at least 32 emergency cases.

For one Australian Red Cross nurse who spent six-weeks at the facility, it is a sad day. Heather Mackintosh from Queensland says she will always remember the kindness and caring of the Achenese as well as many touching stories, 'Many of the patients lived with their families at the hospital. I remember one man with a badly injured leg had his two sons living under his bed. His wife too didn't want to leave his side. I was touched and moved to see their loyalty and compassion.'

She had kind words too for the Achenese health staff who worked at the hospital, 'They were great. Despite losing a lot of professional staff in the tsunami, the surviving medical staff showed resilence and determination to help fellow Achenese. They have some really outstanding nurses. It was really hard to leave them,' said Ms Mackintosh.

The hospital was not due to shut down for another two weeks, but was forced to close early because of damage caused by heavy rains and strong winds.