CORNER BROOK — “Are you as Newfoundland ready for a disaster?”
That’s the question Rahul Singh challenged a group of emergency department nurses, physicians and paramedics to think about on Saturday.
Singh, the founder and executive director of the David McAntony Gibson Foundation, was the keynote speaker for the National Emergency Nurses Affiliation provincial conference held at the Glynmill Inn over the weekend.
Singh spoke about GlobalMedic, an organization of the foundation that provides disaster relief services and capacity building programs in nations facing conflict.
He focused mostly on the disaster relief service.
Unlike traditional relief agencies, Singh said GlobalMedic takes personnel and cross trains them and puts them on rapid response teams. Teams are made up of three units — search and rescue, water purification and emergency medical services.
He said the water purification is probably the most important thing GlobalMedic does because the more clean water they get to people, the more healthy those people will be.
“We prevent them from becoming patients,” Singh said.
He said the medical teams will either set up where people are concentrated or in a central area. Teams use portable and inflatable clinics and inflatable hospitals to deliver services. Those structures are manufactured right here in Newfoundland in St. Mary’s.
The organization funds it work through fundraising and team members volunteer their time to serve on missions. Singh said GlobalMedic ensures that every dollar raised goes to help the people in need.
Currently the organization has seven teams deployed around the world and in the past has responded to disasters in places like Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru and Haiti. Team members have responded to floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and epidemics.
Singh described some of those missions for his audience, outlining the challenges the teams faced, how they overcame them and how they empowered the people they went to help.
He then turned his attention to the question of preparedness in Newfoundland and answered it with “you’re not ready.”
But he said there are things that can be done to be prepared.
“Your government and your leadership needs to have robust deployment systems and in those deployment systems you people need to be deployed, practising. Practising in the Third World, practising in other countries because then when it happens here you’ve got a whole bunch of folks that have done it, so it’s not a big deal.”
Singh ended his talk by pitching his recruitment drive to the audience.
“We need nurses,” he said.
“We’d love to have an Atlantic hub for GlobalMedic. A hub where you people get together, you raise funds, you talk about the issues in the world and you get deployed into big GlobalMedic missions around the world.”
He encouraged anyone interested to speak with him or to check out GlobalMedic.ca.