Surgical workload of a foreign medical team after Typhoon Haiyan

ANZ J Surg. 2016 May;86(5):361-5. doi: 10.1111/ans.13175. Epub 2015 May 21.


Background: On 8 November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines causing widespread loss of lives and infrastructures. At the request of the Government of the Philippines, the Australian Government deployed a surgical field hospital to the city of Tacloban for 4 weeks. This paper describes the establishment of the hospital, the surgical workload and handover to the local health system upon the end of deployment.

Methods: A Microsoft excel database was utilized throughout the deployment, recording demographics, relationship to the typhoon and surgical procedure performed.

Results: Over the 21 days of surgical activity, the Australian field hospital performed 222 operations upon 131 persons. A mean of 10.8 procedures were performed per day (range 3-20). The majority (70.2%) of procedures were soft tissue surgery. Diabetes was present in 22.9% and 67.9% were typhoon-related. The Australian Medical Assistance Team field hospital adhered to the World Health Organization guidelines for foreign medical teams, in ensuring informed consent, appropriate anaesthesia and surgery, and worked collaboratively with local surgeons, ensuring adequate documentation and clinical handover.

Conclusion: This paper describes the experience of a trained, equipped and collaborative surgical foreign medical team in Tacloban in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Sepsis from foot injuries in diabetic patients constituted an unexpected majority of the workload. New presentations of typhoon-related injuries were presented throughout the deployment.

Keywords: Typhoon Haiyan; foreign medical team; sudden onset disaster.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cyclonic Storms*
  • Disaster Medicine / organization & administration*
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • International Cooperation*
  • Medical Missions / organization & administration*
  • Philippines / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Workforce
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery*