I have been Medical Director of 3 hospitals – 2 in South Asia and 1 in the UK. Most recently I led the response to COVID-19 in the two hospitals Gloucestershire. We were the busiest Trust in the SW of England, although not as busy as hospitals in some other parts of the country. Looking back I drew enormously on my experience with Interserve in Asia and doubt very much if we would have done as well as we did without it.
In our last 5 years in South Asia I was MD of ICDDR (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research) and ran their cholera hospitals. The experience I gained there of diarrhoea epidemics and outbreak management meant that I knew that in the early phase, when it seems as if nothing is happening, you mustn’t be complacent but have to plan, plan plan.
Our first 10 years experience at this hospital taught me to use whatever is at hand to look after my patients. I never thought I would need to use these skills in the UK but we re-purposed wards in days, ran oxygen and air pipes to wherever we needed to, turned community CPAP machines in our basement into treatment units for COVID-19 patients; and all done at pace and safely. Again, and just like when I worked in Asia, fear kept a lot of people away from hospital even when it was necessary and despite it being safe. We are still struggling to get people to come for the tests and treatment they need. I was supported in prayer by people I know well and also many whom I have never met – the parallels to my time in South Asia are huge. However, and this is unlike the hospital we served in overseas, the Government here kept on paying the bills. Perhaps for the first time in my career running hospitals I didn’t have to worry about money. We faced a lot of problems including a struggle to get supplies and staff shortages due to sickness but never money.
Hospitals like the one I worked in Asia serve the poorest of the poor. They never turned anyone away for lack of money. They have lost staff and, for a while, patients were afraid to come. Please pray for hospitals where many Interservers serve – that the Lord will provide both the staff and the money that they need and that the message of the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed in word and deed through their ministry.