Doctor’s mission to Asia: ‘My gratitude for the NHS’

Medical Mission Directs teaching team for 2017
Medical Mission Directs teaching team for 2017

A Bridlington GP said his latest visit to Cambodia made him appreciate the role of Britain’s NHS more than ever.

Dr Anthony Clarke, from Bridlington Medical Centre, has visited the country regularly in recent years, working to train up health professionals.

Cambodian children with a drip

Cambodian children with a drip

He has just returned from Asia and told the Free Press: “I have had the privilege of leading teams of medics involved in teaching community healthcare assistants who are voluntarily working for churches or charities in rural areas of Cambodia.

“Over the past three years we have also taught student midwives, nurses and medical students.

“First aid, hygiene, health promotion, recognising serious illness in children and child protection seminars have all been well received by these volunteers who give advice and help direct the sick to reputable sources of health care.

“It has been a joy to meet these Cambodians, often young but enthusiastic to learn.

Village healthcare workers and Mission Direct team on medical outreach

Village healthcare workers and Mission Direct team on medical outreach

“My trips to Cambodia have left me with gratitude for the UK NHS and the privilege of a UK medical education.”

Many Cambodians are too poor to be able access vital healthcare, with the system a world away from Britain’s free-for-all NHS.

Dr Clarke added: “We live in days of unprecedented strain on our National Health Service but there is a stark contrast between the NHS and Cambodian health services, which are fragmented and often unaffordable for the majority.

“There is one qualified doctor to 5,000 Cambodians and many unlicensed doctors and birth attendants remain following the Pol Pot regime when people with some medical knowledge but usually without qualifications were appointed by the Khmer Rouge to perform medical tasks.

Dr Anthony Clarke teaches a medical student during a consultation

Dr Anthony Clarke teaches a medical student during a consultation

“The majority of educated Cambodians were either murdered in the brutal “Killing Fields” of the communist Genocide between 1975 and 1979 or died of malnutrition.

“As many as a quarter of the population perished and every family was affected.

“Consequent to this evil, Cambodia has depended on health care initiatives by foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) because of the lack of educated people.

“Significant reductions in maternal and infant mortality have occurred but childbirth and infant death from infection remain a serious risk for rural Cambodians.

One of the medical students receives a seminar attendance certificate

One of the medical students receives a seminar attendance certificate

“Drowning and road traffic accidents remain common causes of death in children and young people.

“Western doctors working in Cambodia have noticed widespread poor medical practice, in both state and private medical facilities with, for example, breaches of infection control and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C viruses via injection needles.

“The transmission of HIV recently became a national scandal.

“Intravenous infusion (IVI) of fluids is frequently undertaken as part of medical treatment when oral medications including oral rehydration fluids would suffice.

“I have witnessed people carrying an IVI, otherwise known as a “drip”, on their motorcycles and I have seen children playing in the street carrying their IVI on the end of a stick and 80% of people in Cambodia are poor, often earning less than a dollar per day.

“The poor find it very difficult to access health care, particularly in rural areas.”

Dr Anthony Clarke consulting in a village church in Cambodia with the help of a translator

Dr Anthony Clarke consulting in a village church in Cambodia with the help of a translator