The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Global Health (CGH) Office of Global Disaster Response and Humanitarian Action (GDR) has teamed up with the MGH Global Nursing program to provide clinical care responses in Matamoros, Mexico and Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Flags hang in the Matamoros camp representing the home countries of camp residents.

Flags hang in the Matamoros camp representing the home countries of camp residents.

Matamoros, a border city and receiving site for individuals seeking asylum in the United States who have been sent back to Mexico to await their immigration hearing is one of the largest migrant camps that has formed along the US/Mexico border. An estimated 700 individuals are currently living in makeshift camps along the Rio Grande river, many in need of basic health care and crucial services such as adequate sanitation, potable water, nutrition, and protection.

Funded by the Durant Fellowship for Refugee Medicine, the team included Global Nursing Director, Mary Sebert, RN, MPH, Global Disaster Response and Humanitarian Action Director Lindsey Martin, NP (Blake 12 Surgical Intensive Care Unit) and Deputy Director Kristen Giambusso, MPH.  They deployed in coordination with Global Response Management (GRM), an international medical NGO who provides pre-hospital care and training to those living in underserved areas or displaced by conflict. GRM has been operating their clinic in the Matamoros camp since October 2019 and has since taken on a leadership role in providing and monitoring proper water, sanitation, and hygiene systems for residents. The team joined GRM as full-time volunteers, supplementing clinic staffing and supporting ongoing clinic initiatives. The team was deployed from October 18th through November 1st (Kristen returned October 25th).

Upon returning home from the border, GDR and Global Nursing’s work did not end, as they prepared an additional team for a deployment to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to provide clinical support and training for nurses in hospital-based acute care at the Pine Ridge Hospital. The hospital serves the Lakota Indian population and is the largest in the Great Plains Area. In past months, the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the region’s referral hospitals. Now at the epicenter of the pandemic in South Dakota, Pine Ridge has requested additional clinical assistance to meet community needs for hospital care.

Lindsey Martin explains: “We are using the experience gained in our MGH COVID response, to assist communities going through their first surge. Though we hope these deployments to vulnerable places do not continue indefinitely and we can embrace public health measures to turn the tide of the pandemic, MGH Global Disaster Response and Nursing will continue to respond where there is a need.”

The team currently consists of Mary Sebert, RN, MPH, Lindsey Martin, NP, Maya Ginns, NP, MPH, MSN, and Jeannie Bernhardt, PhD, MHSA, NEA-BC, FNP-BC, CNP. They were deployed at the request of Indian Health Services (IHS), which provides direct medical and public health services to members of federally recognized Native American Tribes and has been a historical partner to the MGH Department of Medicine (DOM) and MGH Global Nursing Program. Through collaboration with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the DOM has been partnering with IHS for the past four years through the Fellowship Program in Rural Health Leadership, directed by Matthew Tobey, MD, MPH. Concurrently, MGH Global Nursing has been working in Rosebud through the support of the Sullivan Family Foundation.  For this deployment, IHS requested volunteer clinical staff to support the care of patients admitted to their most impacted facilities amidst the COVID pandemic. The team plans to deploy in two-week rotations beginning November 14th through mid-December.

(from left) Maya Ginns, Lindsey Martin, Mary Sebert, Jeannie Bernhardt

Dr. Tobey explains: “Working with the sovereign Lakota tribes of Western South Dakota remains the highest honor imaginable for those of us involved from Mass General. Despite the challenges of this dark year, the personal moments in clinical care with tribal members have often been bright. With South Dakota facing among the world’s highest death rates in the pandemic, the Center for Global Health team response couldn’t be more important or timely sign of our hospital’s commitment to addressing racial justice in our diverse nation.”

Global Disaster Response and Humanitarian Action at the MGH Center for Global Health is committed to providing well-trained personnel and resources to immediately respond to a full spectrum of humanitarian—natural or man-made—emergencies in coordination with local authorities. As a center of excellence in disaster preparedness and response, GDR leverages the multi-disciplinary expertise of MGH to deliver timely, high-level care to people affected by disasters and humanitarian emergencies. The Global Nursing Program at the MGH Center for Global Health provides nursing education and promotes nursing leadership to increase the capacity of nurses and midwives to improve clinical outcomes for the populations they serve.