PARIS – An international team of doctors turned a villa under construction in Syria into a secret field hospital, spending two months treating wounded who sometimes traveled two days for help, a small group of physicians said Tuesday upon their return.
It took the doctors a week to transform the home in northern Syria into a field hospital, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the aid group that sent the international team.
"We could see and hear the shelling almost on a daily basis," said Brian Moller, an Australian anesthetic nurse on the team of seven foreigners and about 50 Syrians. Moller said they made sure the Syrian government knew about them without letting authorities know where the field hospital would operate.
"They did not appreciate or like our presence," Moller said.
Katherine Holte, a Danish surgeon who spent four weeks at the field hospital, said conditions were growing increasingly dire in Syria, and nearly all her patients were victims of the fighting — about 60 percent suffering from explosions and 40 percent from gunshot wounds.
"They live in fear every day," she said.
Holte said many patients used back roads to skirt checkpoints and other military operations, taking as long as two days to travel 15 miles (24 kilometers).
Although small field hospitals are sprouting up around Syria, she said few have the resources of the one established by the aid group, also known as Doctors without Borders. The hospital has about a dozen beds, a sterilization room, an operating room, an emergency resuscitation room and a recovery room. Holte said other, cruder hospitals around the county learned about the villa and soon started sending their own patients.
The French military sent its own team of doctors to the Syria-Jordan border earlier this month to set up a mobile hospital.
France, Syria's onetime colonial ruler, has been in the forefront of diplomatic efforts to end the civil war in Syria. On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande was meeting in Paris with members of the opposition Syrian National Council, including its leader, Abdelbaset Sieda, a Swedish-based activist for Syria's minority Kurdish community.