Chaos as hospitals looted in volatile CAR

26 March 2013 - 04:12 By SCHALK MOUTON and GRAEME HOSKEN
Hospital in CAR. Pic Sarah Elliott
Hospital in CAR. Pic Sarah Elliott

The SA Military Health Service has set up a temporary medical base in Uganda to deal with any further medical emergencies that might arise from the fighting in the Central African Republic.

A doctor, who asked not to be named, said yesterday that several senior medical staff members flew to the Central African Republic to set up a temporary hospital.

Several South African troops are still holed up in Bangui and doctors at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria were expecting another plane full of the wounded to arrive.

"What we're hearing is that we've already received the more serious cases and the guys arriving would be less serious," he said.

Doctors at the hospital have been working around the clock since the first group of the wounded arrived.

"The medical response has been fantastic," said the doctor.

Four of the hospital's operating theatres have been running non-stop, with top specialists working to stabilise the patients.

In Bangui, however, the medical situation was "precarious".

Tom Roth, Mèdecins Sans Frontières'operations manager, said: "We definitely didn't expect the situation to be like this. Hospitals and our facilities have been looted, ambulances stolen and our staff are remaining indoors for their safety.

"All non-essential staff are being evacuated as the situation continues to worsen," he said.

Civilians injured in the fighting were unable to reach medical facilities.

"Only those with armed escorts can move at this point in time, with large numbers of international people fleeing the city," he said.

Roth said the situation was being compounded by the huge number of displaced people fleeing other towns that had fallen to the rebels.

"The situation is precarious ... There is no law and order or any form of control ... We are desperately trying to get the authorities, both international and national, whoever they may be, to ensure that medical care can be provided to those in need," said Roth.