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Letter from Antarctica
  1. Gavin Francis
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gavin Francis, Dalkeith Rd Medical Practice, Edinburgh, EH16 5HQ mobilegavin{at}gmail.com

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No waiting room, no on-call bleep, no inpatients and no clinics. No nursing staff and, in fact, no medical colleagues at all. No CT scanners, no MR scanners and only the most basic of x-ray machines (you will be developing your own x-rays in the bath). No lab, though there is an old microscope in the cupboard that looks as if it was last used by van Leeuwenhoek. No surgical colleagues, though beside the microscope you have seen a burr-hole kit, to which some joker of a predecessor has added the label: “Not to be used in anger.” No internet access and no telephones apart from a spine-shiveringly expensive US-military-maintained satellite phone system. Welcome to practising medicine in the Antarctic.

To be true, there are not many patients either. Fourteen, if you count yourself, and so the likelihood of needing any equipment more comprehensive than that outlined above is fairly slight. In terms of neurological skills, you are unlikely to need to localise a lesion to the medial longitudinal fasciculus using diagnostic acumen alone, and as the neurosurgeon who gave us predeployment training in the use of the burr-hole kit said: “If you're unwrapping this kit down there, the patient's gubbed anyway, so you might as well have a …

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