Another eventful week draws to a close. This time it was a visit from the eye team. It is an annual event, but this year was special, with the opening of our new eye building. This was donated by the Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand and was initially destined for Gizo, but as they have a new hospital, it was redirected to Munda. This year the team was larger than usual and included Dr Bradley Townend, an ophthalmologist from Australia, whose family had raised most of the funding for the new building. There was also Dr Mundi Qalo and Dr Nola Pikache, eye surgeons from Honiara but currently working with the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva. Eye nurses came from Suva, Seghe, Gizo and Honiara for the tour. In total 150 patients were seen in the clinic and 67 operations performed, mainly cataracts. Unfortunately some patients missed out on the opportunity for eye surgery as a result of lack of transport from their villages. The eye team was an inspiration to us with their dedication and hard work.
Jesus said to his disciples that his followers would do the work that he was doing and even greater things. He performed many miracles of healing but His work has continued through modern medicine and this week we have seen many people receive back their sight. We thank God for their faith and dedication.
This week was the annual four day National Health Conference and Graham was able to attend, along with a good number of senior nurses, accountants and doctors from around the country. There were also representatives from the various donor agencies – AusAID, The World Bank, the World Health Organisation, U.N.I.C.E.F. and several others.
On Tuesday we had a series of presentations from the different provinces. Currently 3 of the 10 provinces are without a doctor, including Choiseul, with about 25,000 people living in remote villages around the coast. The doctor in Isabel works alone without either x-ray or laboratory facilities. The remote province of Temotu had a doctor posted there last year, but he committed suicide in December, partly as a result of his 24/7 responsibilities and the lack of support and facilities. The doctor posted to Rennell-Belona Province is unable to actually live there due to a lack of housing. All this sounds rather depressing and makes us realise that we are quite fortunate in the West Province.
Jenny hopes to do a medical tour in Choiseul Province next month, starting at Taro in the north-west and working her way down to Wagina in the south-east before returning to Munda. Next week will be the official opening of the new Eye Unit at Helena Goldie Hospital, timed to coincide with the 3 day eye surgical tour.
Drs Dina and Zotei have taken the opportunity of a public holiday (the official birthday of the Queen here) to take a long weekend trip to Marovo Lagoon. They left at 5 am on Friday and will return on Monday. Fortunately the out-patient department was quiet on Friday, as General Ward was very busy with 2 patients needing transfer by air to Honiara for bowel surgery. Sadly a young man died yesterday (Satruday) from overwhelming septicaemia, having transferred here from Choiseul Province, where they still have no doctor. We felt very sad as we watched the family leave from this hospital with the body in an open canoe, powered by two small engines, to travel for 4 hours across open sea with no shade from the sun. They looked so vulnerable but their capacity to embrace life and death humbles us.
Jenny hopes to go back to Choiseul next month for a short stay. Graham is off to Honiara for the Provincial Directors’ annual meeting. Munda airstrip is busy now that Gizo has been closed for upgrading and this morning we witnessed all the Premiers from the different provinces arrive here to a traditional warrior welcome before being transferred to Gizo by boat.
On Sunday morning at the church in Kokeqolo over 90 young people were confirmed, the culmination of a youth rally during the week.
Last week Drs Dina & Zotei joined a Victorious Ministries workshop in Dunde, leaving each day after an early ward-round. It was Jenny’s second week in Marovo and so Graham was left in sole charge at the hospital. Fortunately it was not too busy but there has been some “catch-up” this week with a number of theatre cases. The nurse aides sat their English writing examination on Tuesday and will start lessons in mathematics this week. Last Thursday we has our monthly management meeting at the hospital with some difficult issues discussed. Our chaplain has just left for a 3 week peace-building conference in Fiji – his first trip outside the Solomon Islands. We pray that it will be a time of blessing for him.
Jenny enjoyed a relaxing weekend with the team at Uepi resort – time to go paddling or scuba diving in the lagoon and enjoy the seafood restaurant! They have apparently done a total thyroidectomy as an elective procedure in the new operating theatre and a man came in on Friday (24th) with a bush knife laceration from his elbow to his wrist, including some severed tendons. Fortunately the senior surgeon from Honiara was able to sort him out.
Back at H.G.H., a man from the nearby village of Kindu was out fishing on Friday evening and was attacked by a shark. Two of his fingers were badly damaged, so Graham was on general ward suturing the lacerations at 1 am (Saturday). Otherwise the hospital is quiet with our three ladies recovering from their hysterectomies. We also have a local U.C.S.I. minister admitted with Dengue Fever and low platelets (36 – the normal being 150 to 400). He is at risk of bleeding so he may need a blood transfusion. On Tuesday a lady arrived from an electrical company in Honiara with a complete solar power system for the new eye unit. Hopefully this will be fitted over the next few days, ready for the official opening on Monday 24th June. On the same day we attempted the last in the current series of hysterectomies, but we had to abandon the procedure as the uterus was firmly attached to bowel, so continuing with the procedure was too risky.
Jenny returned on the Friday afternoon flight, landing at Kokeqolo airport just after 4 pm, having had 12 amazing days in the Marovo Lagoon with the American led medical team. This was their 10th trip to the lagoon and was the realisation of a dream that Suzanne had after visiting Seghe clinic at the end of a diving holiday in 2006. She and her husband Alan committed themselves to improving health care to the people of the lagoon and after supplying an excellent solar power system, they were able to work on the operating theatre which was opened and used for the first time on this tour. It was exciting to be there at the beginning with Sally, the Helena Goldie Hospital theatre sister, who worked with the surgical team from Australia, the Solomon Islands and the U.S.A. Jenny was part of the medical team visiting the remote villages and returning in the evenings to stay in the beautiful Uepi resort, run by Grant and Jill Kelly. Their son Jason has been instrumental in this project and the support from Uepi has guaranteed its success. It was a very different type of touring for Jenny, with a chance to relax in the evenings and the middle weekend. The diving is apparently first class and the snorkelling that she did opened up a world of beautiful corals and tropical fish. It was a joy to share medical knowledge and expertise with such a lovely group of people and to learn from them too. Hopefully this will be an ongoing relationship.