Medical aid team to Nepal returns home

Medical aid team to Nepal returns home
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min (in white) meeting team members at Paya Lebar Air Base

A medical team from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Ministry of Health (MOH) and Royal Brunei Armed Forces returned yesterday from earthquake-hit Nepal where it treated about 3,000 injured and sick people.

This was the highest number of patients treated by about 20 medical teams from various countries sent there to date, said Colonel Lim Kwang Tang, overall mission commander and director of the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre (RHCC), which coordinated relief efforts.

He said: "There is a need for a common platform for all of us to share information so that we can better optimise the resources available and to render assistance as fast as possible."

The medical team was based in Gokarna, a village near Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.

The SAF sent 38 servicemen, comprising a medical team and staff of the Changi RHCC. With them were seven MOH doctors and nurses and eight personnel of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

The team came home on a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 plane.

After receiving them at Paya Lebar Air Base, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said: "We went there looking for work. We tied up with the Nepalese military and we knew where the needs were and we put ourselves in the area where there were many patients."

One of them, military medical expert Tan Puay Meng, 38, said: "The locals have no means to get to any healthcare facilities. We went to remote areas... which took a two-hour drive to provide medical aid. I can't imagine how they could get down from the mountainous areas to seek help."

The RSAF has operated 11 flights to Nepal since April 26 - a day after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake - transporting people, equipment and supplies.

The SAF and MOH personnel are part of a 182-strong Singapore relief contingent sent to Nepal. Others involved included the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Health Sciences Authority and Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The 126 Home Team officers - its largest deployment for an overseas disaster relief operation - returned home last Saturday.

Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in Parliament yesterday that the Singapore Government donated $250,000 through the Singapore Red Cross to help Nepalese people. He also thanked the officers for their hard work, "often times under trying conditions".

This article was first published on May 12, 2015.
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