Fatma, age 24, was a third-year medical student when the conflict first reached Sabha in southern Libya last fall. “People were scared to come and work [in the local hospital] and there were patients on the beds shouting for help,” says Fatma. Although she had never worked in a hospital previously, when Fatma saw the overwhelming needs at the remote Sabha Central Hospital, she felt compelled to help and began working at the hospital in September.
International Medical Corps, which has been managing a comprehensive humanitarian response in Libya since the outbreak of conflict in February 2011, sent a medical team to Sabha in October and began providing support, training, supplies and equipment to Sabha Central Hospital. Funding from ConocoPhillips enabled International Medical Corps to begin providing nursing support to the hospital in January 2012, through which a Nursing Coordinator, Sarah, has been training nursing staff and medical students like Fatma. In late March, another serious outbreak of conflict occurred in Sabha, causing 147 deaths and 395 injuries over just six days of fighting; the injured were taken to Sabha Hospital.
What happened in the hospital after the March outbreak of conflict in Sabha?
It is very chaotic in the hospital right now. Too many people are coming in with serious wounds that need a lot of care. People crowd around, but don’t always know what to do. The International Medical Corps nurses help us a lot and show us what to do. International Medical Corps is also organizing trainings on trauma care, as we still have a lot to learn.
How has International Medical Corps supported Sabha Hospital?
International Medical Corps donated a lot of desperately needed equipment, medicine and supplies, and showed us how to use them properly.
Before International Medical Corps arrived, we didn’t have an intensive care unit (ICU), ER or pharmacy, and there were no pillows, bedding or towels for patients who had to bring their own to the hospital. The hospital was dirty and unorganized. Sarah, International Medical Corps’ Nursing Coordinator in Sabha, showed us how to properly clean and organize the hospital. With her help, we created a separate section for an ICU, ER and pharmacy. Sarah has also helped the management of the hospital. Before, management felt overwhelmed, but now Sarah is helping them work out what is needed.
Nobody cared about Sabha before. Now, the hospital staff is learning, asking, listening and wanting to help all of the patients that come in to the hospital – not just the important ones.
In addition, International Medical Corps recently held training on gender-based violence at the hospital. This was the first time anyone had spoken about these issues in public. People are now discussing violence prevention messages and other things that they never dared to speak about before.
How has International Medical Corps helped you?
People at the hospital who want to learn are being guided with International Medical Corps’ support. I have learned practical skills that I can use to help treat people. I had not helped at the hospital before because I was a student, but with International Medical Corps’ help, I feel like I now know some of the basic skills that are useful to help with a patient’s care.
What do you hope to do when you finish medical school?
The fighting has disrupted my study, so I now have to take exams to make up for the time that I missed last year. When I am finished with school, I may want to be a nurse because Sarah has showed me how much a nurse can do to save lives.