Sister hospitals in Bosnia

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6925.413 (Published 05 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:413
  1. A Kvesic,
  2. I Sarac,
  3. S Lang
  1. Hospital “Bijeli Brijeg,” Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina Civilian Health Service, Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    EDITOR, - Hugh Dudley is more than right in his straightforward statements that “putting a team in place is far more effective than evacuating people …the very presence of a team has great meaning for the community” and “surgical teams will never change the course of history but will…be remembered in the marketplace.”

    More than remembered - in our case, such help may mean life for hundreds of people and, indirectly, a psychological impact that would facilitate the flow of himanitarian convoys to all endangered peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Nova Bila Hospital, located near Novi Travnik, middle Bosnia, is the only hospital in an enclave with a surrounded Croatian population of 70 000. Since the hospital was established in the spring of 1993 its staff have performed 330 operations with general anaesthesia and 1500 with local anaesthesia; 59 have been on wounded children. Some 7000 sick civilians were treated in the hospital, with 50 babies born every month, 70-80 patients being checked daily, and about 60 visiting the pharmacy looking for medicines.

    The hospital has serious problems with staff, supplies, equipment, and communication. Raging war and total lack of mutual confidence of warring sides cut the hospital completely off from the world, from all those who could help. It urgently needs a paediatrician, gynaecologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, internist, anaesthesiologists, and all other specialists. Haemodialysis machines, electrocardiographs, and equipment for developing x ray films are among the most needed devices. All drugs are in short supply.

    We have already sent a similar appeal for help to our colleagues in Croatia. I believe, however, that because of the delicacy of our setting, foreign doctors and help would be more efficacious and have wider impact. The presence of foreign doctors would assure all sides of their impartiality and this, in turn, would ease the flow of supplies, diminish the direct danger to the hospital, and facilitate the evacuation of heavily wounded patients. Thus, purely medical aid and presence may have far reaching consequences that might prove Huge Dudley wrong in at least one of his statements: surgical help may, at least a little, also change the course of history.

    Knowing the situation in Nova Bila, the doctors of Mostar Hospital proclaimed Nova Bila Hospital as a sister hospital. The idea of establishing the sister hospital relation stems from a recent initiative of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) to formalise the concept of IPPNW peace hospitals as places for “inner and outer peace.”2 The idea includes the concept of proclaiming hospitals endangered by war as sister hospitals of those willing to help.3 In as much as Mostar Hospital employs physicians from all major nationalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Moslems, Croats, Serbs, and Jews) and impartially treats patients of all nationalities, occupations, and sides, we have submitted our application for an IPPNW peace hospital. Unfortunately, the war proved faster than the acceptance procedure and we decided to work along the lines of a peace hospital even before the formal decision of the IPPNW. Both hospitals would appreciate help from our foreign colleagues to find our sisters in more peaceful and less troubled parts of the world.


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