‘Bring us home so we can help’: Stranded doctors’ plea
EMERGENCY doctors stranded in South America are pleading with the Australian Government to help them get home to the Sunshine Coast and join their colleagues in the fight against coronavirus.
Sunshine Coast University Hospital doctors Adam Douglas and Meagan Thomson are desperately trying to find a way home from Quito, Ecuador, after the country shut its borders this week.
The couple left Australia three months ago for a whirlwind trip through South America, but now they might not be able to get home in the foreseeable future.
They were on the Galápagos Islands earlier this week, midway through a boat trip, when they were told to "get off, the country's shutting down tomorrow night".
"We frantically got off the Galápagos and managed to get back to the capital city," Ms Thomson said.
"About seven hours later, the country shut down."
Mr Douglas said some international flights had been able to leave Ecuador, but they had only taken European citizens back home.
"None of them are options for us unfortunately," he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised all overseas travellers to come home as soon as possible, but Mr Douglas and Ms Thomson said it was virtually impossible for some.
"You look at the departures board at the airport and it's all just red," Mr Douglas said.
"Everything is cancelled."
Ms Thomson said they couldn't even travel to another country to find a flight home, as all of Ecuador's borders were closed.
"We can't do anything unless we have assistance from Australia," she said.
"Waiting for the border to open is an indefinite possibility.
"It's a bit nerve-racking and frustrating to play the waiting game."
Mr Douglas said the prospect of being stranded in Ecuador for much longer was worrying, as they were "relying" on locals going to work so they could eat and move through the city.
"We're in a nice hotel and we've got a restaurant here sure, but we rely 100 per cent on the locals continuing to come to work and to feed us," he said.
"We can't get a taxi anywhere to get to the supermarket to get food and to make food."
Along with the fear of being stranded in a foreign country, the couple are hoping to get home immediately so they can help their colleagues on the "front lines".
"This is what we trained for, it's our profession," Mr Douglas said.
"We hear of all the stories of people at home being overworked and the fear of what it's going to do to the industry.
"We just want to be there to support our colleagues and do our bit, but we're stuck in a hotel room here."
Ms Thomson said a WhatsApp group connecting more than 60 Australians stranded in Ecuador had made them hopeful the Australian Government would get them home.
"There's power in numbers," she said.
Mr Douglas said many Australians like themselves who were stuck overseas after months-long trips had left the country before the rapid spread of COVID-19.
"The term coronavirus didn't even exist when we left Australia," he said.
"We've been holidays for over three months now. There was no advice not to travel to any of the countries we've been to.
"A lot of people are in the same case."