Return volunteers make remote visits

The Geelong general practitioners love the variety of work they get to do, including providing primary health care at the Medical Santo clinic, consulting with other health professionals at the Northern Provincial Hospital, and running medical education sessions to help change the lives of people they come in contact with.

On their most recent trip, they were asked to accompany two rural health nurses and a pathology technician to the remote village of Sauriki, on the south-west coast of the island of Santo. A small boat carried the team and their equipment up the coast, landing ashore with an exciting surf onto the beach.

Over the two day visit in a difficult environment, the team screened 150 people, providing treatment and advice where required.

“We faced many challenges on our village visit, primarily with creating an appropriate environment for medical assessments, with language barriers, cultural differences, poor health literacy, lack of confidentiality and limited testing and treatment options as challenges.” the doctors said.

The villagers were very welcoming and helpful with interpreting if needed, while some of the children were a bit more wary of their visitors.

“Many of the children had never seen white people before, so we were certainly curious beings, if not initially terrifying," Dr Michael said.

The consulting room was a log under a tree and the examination table, a mat on the ground.

"After we requested a private area to examine some of the patients, we were allocated a grass hut with no windows. It was a good thing we had our head torches!” he said.

The doctors provided health education at every opportunity, both individually and in larger groups. The rural health nurses concentrated on tuberculosis, HIV and Hepatitis B screening and increasing awareness of these communicable diseases, with one young man transported back with the team for tuberculosis treatment.

Amanda gave a talk to the “Mamas” on women’s health issues, which was delivered via three women, in three languages.

“It was so inspiring to have the three of us, all from such different cultural backgrounds, delivering the same message,” Dr Amanda said.

Both doctors described the visit as an incredible experience and wonderful cultural exchange. Despite the challenges and limitations, they felt the team created a positive impact on the health of the Sauriki villagers and are keen to return to continue working with this community and the many others like it to continue changing lives in Northern Vanuatu.

Read more inspirational stories like this in the latest version of Networking.

Posted June 8, 2017 in Networking blog