October 23, 2013
At the beginning of the Syrian war, Dr. Abdulhameed Dirbash, 41, was the director of the National Hospital in Idlib, treating many of the war’s earliest casualties. After fleeing Idlib when the violence intensified around his hospital, he became the director of the Orient Hospital in the rebel-held village of Atmaa, along Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
The Orient Hospital, and a few others like it throughout northern Syria, is funded by a high-profile pre-revolution opponent of the Assad regime: Ghassan Aboud, one of the wealthiest Syrians in the Diaspora, who in 2009 founded the oppositions most popular television channel, Orient TV.
The hospital, which specializes in military injuries, sits near Atmaa Camp, where more than 10,000 of Syria’s 5.1 million Internally Displaced Persons will spend the approaching winter. As Syria drowns in a sea of politics and violence, the hospital remains staunchly apolitical. Syria Direct’s Nuha Shabaan visited the hospital and spoke with Dirbash about whether he has any qualms about treating shabiha and regime injuries in addition to those of rebel fighters.
Q: Do you receive all people, without any discrimination?
A: Yes, we receive all cases, as our work is above all humanitarian. A little while ago some prisoners, some Assad regime soldiers, came here. There are shabiha and militants here. We treat them all without discrimination.
Q: What are the most common cases you get in the hospital?
A: Most of the cases that come to us are injuries from the war. Our hospital was created to treat these injuries; it is a military field hospital.
Q: Do you receive cases you cannot treat in the hospital? What do you do?
A: Yes, we host people with all kinds of conditions. Sometimes, we do not have space in the intensive care unit, there are no beds, so we directly refer them to Turkish hospitals.
Q: How large is the medical staff here? Is it sufficient?
A: There are 106 people on the medical staff, from all specialties, including nurses, doctors and administration.
Q: Are you getting paid or just volunteering?
A: The whole staff gets paid. There are volunteers visiting the hospital, from America, Saudi Arabia, Europe and the Gulf. They take their yearly vacations here for a week, or two or three. They are our ambassadors abroad, so the world knows how the Syrian people are exposed to bombings, murder and destruction from all kinds of weapons.
Q: Do you visit camps for the internally displaced? Do you have medical staff there?
A: No, we don’t have doctors in camps. They have medical staff supporting them there. Our work is only in this hospital. But in all the liberated areas of Syria there are medical field offices. There are no clinics in the camps, but we treat every patient who comes to us. Sometimes we do tours within those camps, and let them know that we have a specialized hospital, treating all kinds of injuries, especially for kids. We tell them if they contact us we can do surgeries for free.
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