Libya's doctors follow the rebels in their battles

AP News
Posted: Mar 09, 2011 3:26 AM
Libya's doctors follow the rebels in their battles

The scream of an ambulance siren shattered the calm and the staff of the Ras Lanouf hospital sprang into action as the paramedics rushed in a camouflage-clad fighter with a head wound.

The battle against government forces was back on.

A tiny clinic built mainly for foreign workers at this oil facility has turned into a front-line field hospital for the rebel army. Volunteer doctors from across Libya's east have replaced the long evacuated foreign staff and toil to patch together fighters blown up by the rockets and tank shells of Moammar Gadhafi's army.

"We've followed the revolution," said medical student Ahmed Abdel-Jalil, gesturing at his colleagues sitting in an ambulance outside the hospital earlier Tuesday.

As the eastern-based uprising against Gadhafi has gathered pace and moved west, doctors and nurses have moved with it, taking over small local hospitals and dealing with a flood of gunshot and shrapnel wounds unfamiliar to most medical workers.

"This is the first time for most doctors to face war injuries and stuff like that," said Dr. Mohammed Mafoudh, who returned from advanced medical studies in Atlanta, Georgia to help out at a Benghazi trauma hospital.

After the violence subsided in Benghazi, Mafoudh followed the call for volunteers and ended up traveling several hundred miles west to help staff the small oil refinery medical center.

On Tuesday, some two dozen wounded poured in, some limping, others bleeding heavily from multiple wounds from the shrapnel of the rockets that rained down on the rebel position outside the village of Bin Jawwad.

The main role of the field hospitals is to follow up on the first desperate work of the paramedics in the ambulance and stabilize the cases, stop the bleeding and ready them for the trip to the larger hospitals of Ajdabiya and Benghazi.

The doctors and nurses work in chaotic conditions. Burly nurses guard the doors of the emergency operating room, shouting that weapons aren't allowed in the hospital.

A thickset fighter with a shaved head, full beard and fatigues sobbed into a comrade's shoulder.

The rebels talked about an imminent all-out assault to take Bin Jawwad and open the way to Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

If they succeed, and the battles of the last few days make that far from certain, the nomadic tribe of doctors will be on the move again.

"If they take Bin Jawwad, there is a small hospital there and at least we will move forward and transfer our stuff," said Dr. Mafoudh, adding with a laugh, "if we are able to take Sirte, we'd have a good hospital there ... they renovated it lately."