Photo credit: Gennike Mayers, Shourov Sobahan and Corinne Ambler/IFRC

Most people working in the camps in Cox’s Bazar call it the “rubber garden”.

For displaced communities living there, the “rubber garden”, or Red Cross Red Crescent emergency field hospital is where they seek medical aid, have their wounds treated, and where their babies are born. Since 16 October 2017, the hospital has seen over 52,000 patients, admitted over 1,900, performed an estimated 2,700 surgeries and delivered over 600 babies. The hospital is run by a bevy of doctors, nurses, translators and general workers from various nationalities, all focused on delivering life-saving support and helping to treat ailments and mend wounds.

Now, 15 months after the hospital opened its doors, it is transitioning into a primary healthcare center.

From October 2017 to February 2018, the hospital’s main focus was on life-saving emergency surgical operations. During the second phase, from March to June 2018, the hospital played a crucial role in containing the dreaded diphtheria and measles outbreak in camp. From July to December 2018, the hospital team started treating non-communicable diseases along with existing emergency obstetric care and surgery. The hospital also became a training ground for Bangladesh Red Crescent Society volunteers and community volunteers from within and around the camp area to learn about health and first aid.

To serve the community around the clock, an estimated 150 local and international staff lived in tents on the same site as the hospital. In the end, the rubber trees provided shade in the sweltering monsoon months and helped to filter the rainfall so that the heavy downpours were not felt as harshly on the tents. Many of the nurses at the Bangladesh Red Crescent, like senior registered nurse Hase Sankar (left) have served in the hospital since it opened in 2017.  Now that the hospital has transitioned to a primary healthcare center, she continues to serve and assist in training newly recruited nurses.

Along with the doctors and nurses, translators like Susmita Dhar (in yellow scarf), who has worked with the hospital since the start of operations, play a crucial role in ensuring the patients get the help they need. Like many of the translators working in the hospital, she sees herself as a bridge between the patients and the medical staff. As the hospital transitions, the translators will remain as long as their services are needed.

Patients like Rahima Katun’s son, little Faisal, who is 4 years old, will also continue to receive treatment until he is well enough to be released. Faisal was warded following a tomtom accident in which his legs and arms were severely injured. He is recovering slowly from the skin graft operation that was performed on him, and until he is fully healed, the family remains in the care of the Red Crescent staff. Along with his playful 3-month-old baby brother, Arafat, they have become very popular with the staff.

To help take the patients’ minds off their injuries and ailments, the healthcare center also organizes many recreational activities as part of their psychological support services. While these games and activities look simple, they are important to help patients and camp residents cope as life in the camps can be challenging and difficult. Here, Yaser Arfath (left), and Abdu Rahman play chess just outside the male ward of the field hospital. Coupled with peaceful surroundings amid the rubber tree garden, the healthcare center’s recreational section is fast becoming popular among the patients warded here.

Over the past 15 months, other medical facilities have developed around the camp. This, along with the challenges of maintaining the expensive and labor-intensive facility, have become primary factors on why this transition is initiated. While the purpose of the hospital was to provide short-term emergency assistance, there was a need to shift its function, especially as the displacement situation continues with no end in sight. Red Cross Red Crescent teams have analysed the kinds of conditions people are presenting with and are changing its operation confident in the knowledge that people living in the camps will still get good medical care. To ensure this and to help with the transition, the new healthcare center will continue its referral and tomtom ambulance service, and provide information and advice to communities on where they can go to seek medical help.