The healthcare crisis in Myanmar - how UK GPs can help

Dr Jim Brockbank from Myanmar UK GP Health Action provides an update on how the military coup is affecting doctors in Myanmar and explains a new fundraising initiative to help support health and education projects in the country.

A medic in Myanmar hides from the military (Photo courtesy of Dr Jim Brockbank)
A medic in Myanmar hides from the military (Photo courtesy of Dr Jim Brockbank)

Since the military coup in Myanmar four months ago 14 doctors have been killed, 157 medics have been arrested, 400 doctors and 180 nurses are on a wanted list, and 49 hospitals have been occupied.

The healthcare system is at breaking point.

In addition to the challenges of delivering emergency care, chronic disease management, cancer care, maternity services and paediatric services, close neighbours Nepal, Bangladesh and India are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is only a matter of time before the coronavirus swarms across the borders.

Despite all this healthcare professionals continue to show considerable courage, leadership, and resilience, in providing medical cover to their communities in defiance of the military crackdown in Myanmar. GPs in Myanmar need your help.

What is happening?

Myanmar-UK GP Health Action is a support group that meets on zoom regularly in support of our GP colleagues in Myanmar. Healthcare is under fire in Myanmar, the images and testimonies from our colleagues connect us to what is being experienced.

One colleague told us: 'Our ambulance has been shot at twice, we just had to get out and run. Every morning I say a prayer. I write my blood group, my emergency contact number, my weight and other credentials on my forearm.

'There are some patients we see, lying down on the street, who we cannot reach. The military takes them, they may die. I stay in a different place every night. I am afraid of being arrested in night raids. I am doing this for my country’s people, and because I want my children to have a bright future.'

This is only one example of the many testimonies that we are bearing witness to. The delivery of essential healthcare is being prevented.

What are we doing?

Key initiatives have emerged from the UK healthcare community response.

The need for advocacy has resulted in statements of solidarity from the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, and Tropical Health Education Trust (THET). The abuse of human rights is being shared with Amnesty International. Political lobbying continues.

Our Myanmar colleagues have asked that we communicate all that is happening to the wider world, this has recently included this article from the BJGP and a feature on an episode of the BBC's Newsnight, which you can find here.

Through websites and webinars an impressive array of initiatives in response to the call for educational support from Myanmar colleagues has emerged to help them manage the trauma and emergency care they have no prior experience of.

Funding is needed for equipment such as oxygen concentrators, medical supplies and to support the network of hidden charity clinics in the community to manage Covid vaccinations, malaria, TB, HIV programmes and provide general healthcare

How UK GPs can help?

We need your help to raise funds. £25,000, would equip a hospital, £15,000 would set up an emergency community clinic, £1000 would run an antenatal clinic.

To support the doctors and healthcare workers a virtual bike ride has been devised from the UK to Myanmar and onward to the UN General Assembly in New York to be completed by the end of July.

It is a notional relay, we are asking people to sign up to pledge a distance they will cycle in the UK which is translated to the total mileage it would take to reach the UN General Assembly via Myanmar. This is to symbolise our concern for the healthcare crisis in Myanmar in addition to raising funds.

London - Yangon - Naypidaw - Mandalay - New York is in total 14,040 miles!

The ride is dedicated to Dr Peter Tun, a Burmese national, for many years a specialist in neuro rehabilitation at the Royal Berks Hospital, who sadly died from COVID-19 in 2020.

If you would like to get on your bike and encourage friends and colleagues to sponsor you please email Dr Ian Kemp iankemp1972@gmail.com and pledge the distance you plan to ride.

Once your bike ride is completed please go to gofundme Myanmar - medical aid for the poorto donate the money you have raised.

If you feel inclined to donate but not cycle then please also go to gofundme page above.

The money will be passed to The Brighter Future Foundation charity which supports health and education projects in Myanmar to assist with the emergency care so urgently needed at this precarious time.

Our aim is to raise enough to set up at least one emergency community clinic as well as providing urgent medical equipment and supplies.

Please help us to reach this goal.

  • Dr Jim Brockbank is a retired GP. He continues in his role as a GP appraiser and as an international RCGP trainer for Myanmar. He also works with the human rights organisation The Helen Bamber Foundation

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