Island News

Proud sons of Fiji give back to mother country

Written By : Source: INDIAN WEEKENDER. Next weekend, on November 27, 33 volunteer medical professionals from New Zealand will begin a two-week mission to provide much needed relief to Fijian
20 Nov 2010 12:00

Written By : Source: INDIAN WEEKENDER. Next weekend, on November 27, 33 volunteer medical professionals from New Zealand will begin a two-week mission to provide much needed relief to Fijian patients, including some women who have been waiting over a year for gynaecological procedures, which have been the cause of discomfort and distress.
The team includes five specialist gynaecologists, four anaesthetists, 18 nurses, two technicians and a physiotherapist.
They will be based at Lautoka Hospital, which serves the western side of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island. Additionally, three specialist physicians will hold clinics in surrounding districts to diagnose and advise patients with diabetes and blood-pressure related problems.
The team also aims to give some respite and provide training to Fijian doctors and nurses who work hard in challenging circumstances with an extremely limited budget.
The mission to Fiji is organised by the Friends of Fiji Health (FoFH), a New Zealand registered charity, recently set up by a group of Fiji-born New Zealand-based professionals with a desire to contribute in a meaningful way to help the people in their country of birth.
Dr Sunil Pillay, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist working from Fertility Associates and Auckland Hospital is a founding trustee and the chairperson of Friends of Fiji Health.
He says the organisation aims for this to be the first of many missions to Fiji over the coming years.
“Of course funding is a challenge. This two-week mission will cost approximately $150,000” says Dr Pillay.
“We are grateful for personal donations we have received and also to our corporate partners such as Southern Cross Hospitals, Johnson and Johnson, and 3M who have assisted with instruments, equipment and supplies.
I’d also like to acknowledge the 33 medical volunteers who are so willingly giving their time – I’m sure they will have a rewarding experience.”

Dedicated trustees

The 13 FoFH trustees are now living in New Zealand but were all born in Fiji and had the desire to contribute in a meaningful way to help the people in their country of birth.
They are all professionals and include seven specialist doctors, a lawyer, an accountant, a Member of Parliament (Labour Party’s Rajen Prasad), two businessmen and an engineer.
All trustees give their time completely free of charge.
The volunteer team of medical professionals who will undertake the missions to Fiji include specialist doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, technicians, and physiotherapists.
They include Fijians and Kiwis working in the New Zealand medical system – both private and public.
There are also supporting partners who provide goods and services at a discount or free of charge that includes Southern Cross Hospitals, Johnson and Johnson, 3M, and others, besides airlines and accommodation partners in Fiji.
FoFH raises funds and seeks supporting partners to enable the organisation of volunteer medical teams to undertake missions to Fiji.
These missions will assist in alleviating the significant backlog in specialist treatments; providing respite for local doctors who work very long hours in challenging circumstances; training and up-skilling local doctors; conducting clinics to detect health problems earlier; and promoting preventive medicine in the community.
Although the Fijian government provides some free health services, the Fijian administration faces great challenges like other developing countries in meeting the health requirements of its citizens.
Among these are limited budgets and significant shortages of medical professionals and equipment that impact on treatment.
For instance, no gynaecological procedures have been undertaken at the Lautoka Hospital in western Fiji for over 12 months causing discomfort and distress to many women needing treatment.

Scoping mission

The FoFH trustees undertook a fact-finding visit to Fiji in July this year.
They found enthusiastic medical staff doing some good work despite shortages of equipment, infrastructure, supplies and enough hands.
“Gynaecological operations are carried out in Lautoka and that our fellow doctors back home are still doing good work.
This is to supplement and complement the existing services,” Dr Pillay told Indian Weekender.
FoFH identified specific needs in the areas of internal medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, general surgery and primary healthcare and will focus initially on meeting these needs.
They intend to expand services in the future.
FoFH is a completely independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) with humanitarian aims and no political affiliation.
The Fijian Government is accepting the helping hand that FoFH will offer to the Fijian people and is making their facilities available to FoFH.
FoFH will initially work out of Lautoka Hospital, the surrounding district hospitals and in local community health clinics. Lautoka Hospital services half the population of the island of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.
The first medical mission from New Zealand will run for 2 weeks from November 27 to December 12 and will cost approximately $150,000.

Warm send-off

FoFH held a send-off dinner to the volunteer team on November 13 at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre that most trustees and nearly all the volunteers and their families attended. Labour MP and trustee Rajen Prasad also attended.
While Dr Pillay outlined the programme, Bob Naidu, who will be on the ground co-ordinating the efforts in Fiji, explained procedural details and the code of conduct for the volunteers.
Daven Naidu was master of ceremonies.
Dr Pillay told Indian Weekender that the process had been thought out carefully in terms of the medic legal aspects and any post-operative follow-ups on the local patients after the team returned to New Zealand.
There would be detailed paperwork about the handover of the patients from the team of visiting doctors to the local medical team, he said.
FoFH gratefully receives donations and also encourages approaches from supporting partners who might assist with items such as travel, accommodation, and medical supplies.
Additionally, FoFH is also keen to hear from medical professionals who would like to volunteer their skills and time to serving for a short period on a medical mission to Fiji.
FoFH appreciates opportunities to raise awareness throughout New Zealand about their work, particularly within the medical fraternity and among the New Zealand-based Fijian community, but also among a wider interested Kiwi audience. FoFH can be contacted on (09) 302 5930.



Five Square


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