A family nurse practitioner stationed in the Chilcotin is counting the days when she will join the International Federation of Red Cross’s work with the refugee crisis in Bangladesh.
Patrice Gordon has been deployed with Red Cross in the past — to Sierra Leone with the Ebola crisis in 2014, to Nepal after the earthquake in 2015 and in March 2017 to Zimbabwe.
Speaking from her home in the West Chilcotin, Gordon told the Tribune she will leave Canada in mid-November to be the team leader for a mobile clinic in the farthest outreaches of the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh just across the border from Myanmar.
“There are more than 800,000 refugees and about 607,000 have come there since Aug. 25,” Gordon said. “Drone footage online shows a sea of people. It just takes your breath away. There are still some people trapped in Myanmar that are unable to get across the border.”
Gordon said the mobile clinic team is already there ahead of her.
“I’m part of their Whatsapp group so I can keep up with what’s going on there and what the challenges are and putting in my two bits.”
As a mobile clinic, the team will bring everything they need in backpacks and they are establishing drop areas so they can move things such as IV solutions from guarded areas.
“Our focus will be on dehydration, minor injuries, lots of infectious disease, prenatal screening because there are lots of childbearing aged women, and then nutritional status of everyone, but particularly children under the age of five.”
Anyone who needs a higher level of care will also be identified and taken to the comprehensive Red Cross Red Crescent 60-bed field hospital that has been established there.
Some members of the mobile team worked with Gordon in Nepal and are from Mexico, Colombia and Quebec.
With the monsoon season just finishing up, Gordon said there are lots of skin diseases and other things that happen because people are living in crowded conditions without proper access to general hygiene and inadequate access to safe water.
“Everyone in those camps are fully dependent on humanitarian aid 100 per cent. It boggles the mind and I’m chomping at the bit to get there and help and doing what I can from here. There’s a lot of unaccompanied and separated children that are arriving.”
The International Red Cross and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society are working side by side, Gordon said, noting NGOs in the region are making a co-ordinated effort not to duplicate services.
”The Bangladesh Red Crescent are identifying the needs locally and we as the International Red Cross Red Crescent Community are coming in and supporting them.”
Gordon will be in Bangladesh for five weeks. Her team will consist of a paramedic, a few doctors, and a medical logistician to help them sort out getting the supplies they need.
One of those items was Ziploc bags used to hand out medications.
“You realize how the common place that we have immediate access to can be really challenging to acquire.”
While Gordon is out of the country her husband Dr. Rob Coetzee will see her patients.
“Interior Health and the communities are always so supportive when I go with Red Cross,” she added.
When the opportunity to deploy to Bangladesh arose the Red Cross asked Gordon.
“I run a mobile clinic out of my truck now and with my history of having worked as a mountaineering guide, they said ‘hey Patrice, this one’s perfect for you.’”