Island care

Tristan Glover and Dick Naket

Visiting optometrist Tristan Glover watches local PCV worker Dick Naket consult a patient.

Hundreds of patients in remote islands of Vanuatu have consulted with visiting expert medical teams as a result of a partnership between Uniting Church congregations and the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV).

In August, a PCV Health project team saw 1372 patients on the remote island of Malekula.

Six children were referred to the Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC) as needing major orthopaedic, heart or other surgery and 129 patients were identified for cataract surgery. 

The team included a retired lecturer from the Royal College of Surgeons, a doctor with years of experience in remote areas in Africa as well as eye care specialists and two dentists who handed out 1500 tooth brushes.

Unfortunately the dentists had to extract more than 300 teeth.

The team also delivered health education to patients, community groups and primary school children.

PCV Health project coordinator Don MacRaild OAM said much needed to be done on Maleka, and a second team would be visiting in November.

“Malekula is quite a large island and has a big population living traditional lifestyles but with very little access to any medical care,”Mr MacRaild said.

“There are no doctors, optometrists or dentists on Malekula island but there are some very big needs and our team is only scratching the surface. We are only able to target a small section of the island.”

Immediately following the work on Maleku, another PCV Health team set out for the island of Tanna.

In the first three days, the team of visiting doctors, optometrists and  dentists, along with local PCV workers, saw 360 patients.

In July PCV Health sent a training team of four emergency medicine doctors and three nurses from Austin and Box Hill Hospitals to Vila Central Hospital.

The team was led by consultant physician Dr Jamie Hendrie who is a member of the Montmorency/Eltham Uniting Church, which financially supported his trip.

Training topics included treating heart attacks, asthma, major trauma such as road accidents, and how doctors and nurses can work together to save lives.

Mr MacRaild said the training teams equipped young doctors and other medical staff with clinical skills that were applicable in remote situations with little technical back-up.

“We’re taking over some really top people from Australia who put in one-to-one training with some of these young people,” Mr MacRaild said.

“The young doctors come back from training with the express purpose of starting health centres throughout the country, rather than working just in the main centres.”

Visiting PCV Health team members pay their international fares while Rotary pays for domestic flights and accommodation.

The organisation and logistics of the trips depend on PCV Health employing eight staff in Vanuatu, including six eye care workers and two dental staff at their two clinics in Vila and Espiritu Santo.

The eight are paid out of funds raised by churches in Gippsland area, along with North Ringwood Uniting Church and Living Faith Church in Greensborough.

“It’s a team effort that depends entirely on the goodwill of a lot of groups and the church is really important within this,” Mr MacRaild said.

“The whole thing couldn’t run unless we had these eight employees over there who are paid through donations that come through congregations.”

PCV Health, Rotary and Uniting Church congregations also partner to send medical equipment to Vanuatu, including an endoscopy system to Vila Central Hospital earlier this year.

If you would like to support the work of PCV health you can contact Don MacRaild at E:

vila hospital

Vila Central Hospital with the donated endoscopy system.

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