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Interview: asylum seekers’ reception camp

Thursday Asylum seekers reception camp
OK, I just came back from working at the refugee camp. I worked in the outpatient department there and I have seen about 50-60 patients in one day. I am the only medical doctor there. I see patients who haven’t seen a doctor in a very long time. So actually most of the health problems can be solved on the spot if it is a somatic health problem. You see also a lot of psychosomatic problems, that is when it starts to get actually quite difficult. Of course, when you work in an outpatient department in a refugee camp your work has limitations.
These limitations can be due to your limitations as a doctor, due to your personal limitations. It can be due to administrative constraints or it can be due to the complexity of the health problem that we have to address. So, it is very important to notice you cannot help everybody and this is something that you have to accept when you want to keep working in this kind of conditions. You have to take very good care of yourself and you have to know that there is a small margin between empathy and sympathy. And you have to be empathetic but you cannot be suffering with the patient.
I think it’s very important to address health issues very early, before they become emergencies, before they become complex and before they become costly. So in the end you can enable a better outcome for your patients.

In the video Dr. Alexa Matuschek has talked about various health problems of the refugees she is seeing during her shifts at the reception camp.

A high number of refugees have arrived in the last few days. Many of them have not had a chance to see a medical doctor during their journey and the queue of men and women who wish to see a doctor on Thursdays when Dr Matuschek is available, is very long. They mainly come with injuries, infections and signs of mental distress. After working at the reception camp for an afternoon, Sarah feels quite exhausted.

In general, the health of refugees may not necessarily be worse than that of the host population. There is the so called “healthy migrant effect”, meaning that the majority of migrants have a better health status than many in the host population because of younger age and better physical fitness.

However, studies show that many formerly healthy migrants experience deteriorating health status after some time. Factors like poor living conditions with low level of hygiene and substandard housing, overcrowding, high barriers to access to health care and an adoption of unhealthy habits like an unhealthy diet, smoking, and less physical activity can be important threats to the health of migrants.

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