The Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore

Batam: Beyond A Mission. Posted on 17th Nov 2009, 8:30pm by Alvin

I had the privilege of travelling with the St Andrew’s Cathedral group to Batam on their 2-monthly Batam medical mission trip earlier this month.Our group of 50 odd volunteers was made up of medical doctors, nurses, medical students, and lay people – and what the lay people lacked in Medical knowledge, certainly was more than made up by their hearts.. =)

Departing from Harbourfront Cruise centre on a bright cheery Saturday morning, we reached Batam and picked up our supplies of medicines, health education materials, consultation cards, and other goodies for the kids, from the local Bible school. We split into 3 teams bound for 3 different villages, and set off amidst the very hot weather..

Slotted into Team A with Dr Thambiah, I felt quite out of place since it was my first time on the trip. The other volunteers quickly got down to work once we reached the village – arranging the tables and chairs into a waiting area with consultation tables, registration areas, and even a pharmacy area.

And so without much fanfare, we started!

The villagers trickled in from all parts of the village – I originally thought it looked really small, and we’d be done in an hour or two, but boy was I wrong – the crowd started swelling, and soon, I realized the impact of the mini-polyclinic crowd that we had inherited!!!!

The patients started by registering at the counter, then they had their BP taken before the consultation. There were 3 of us – Dr Thambiah, me, and an Indonesian doctor who was there only for the morning.

View of the Medical tent

View of the Medical consult tent.

Subsequently, they went off to the Pharmacy where they got their medicines before getting a healthy dose of health education at the station next door.

All this cramped into a tent of an area just slightly bigger than your average classroom.

So there we were – 3 doctors sitting at 1 long table: me and the Indonesian doctor at 2 ends, and Dr Thambiah sitting in between us.. space constraints! =P Felt very lost during my first few patients, and am thankful to Dr Thambiah for guiding me for the first few patients. Subsequently, things got a lot smoother!

Dr Thambiah speaking to a patient..

Dr Thambiah speaking to a patient.

My main issue, has gotta be communication. Goodness gracious – I spoke nary a word of Bahasa Indonesia. Whatever Malay I had was simply paltry – fever? pain? cough? vomit? DM? hypertension? dizzy? How long? That pretty much covers it? Luckily I had a nice interpreter to help me..

So there I was, running my own “GP” practice in the middle of a Batam village, armed with a list of medications and my lovely interpreter. Fever, URTI, myalgia, arthalgia, cellulitis, ? TB, tooth decay, headache, pregnancy checkup, dizziness.. Think I could have fainted at the rate that the patients were coming. Lunch break took a hold as we took turns to go for lunch so that we could handle the crowds.. Even the pharmacy was so packed, we resorted to handing out the vitamins at our consultation table..

Crowded pharmacy!!

Crowded pharmacy!!

And the very cute kids..

And the very cute kids

Amazingly, we actually manage to wrap up by around 3pm after 5 straight hours of seeing patients.. Phew!


Although it was only a short one day trip for me – the others stayed overnight for church service on Sunday, where they would hold a 2hr clinic on Sunday after service for the church-goers – it was quite an experience.

Amidst the busy packing up, I looked around at the kids playing around the tentage, busily colouring away with their new colour pencils and drawing pads, and a smile spread across my face. They were so innocent and carefree – although they live in poverty, they are happy with their lot.

To see the people and children living in the village, with almost no access to affordable health care / electricity.. it was heart rending at times, yet you admire the spirit of resilience within them that helps see them through pain and suffering.

Some things are always hard to put into words. The villagers.. the kids.. the selflessness and fellowship of the volunteers both medical professionals and lay people alike.. It has been a fruitful trip! =)<–>

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2009 Nov: Batam: Beyond A Mission
2009 Oct: The Broken Rosary
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