General Election 2014

In the run up to the election, we had a 7 year old boy admitted on Saturday afternoon following a fall from a coconut tree the same morning. There was some delay with transport to Helena Goldie but he was unconscious on admission at about 3 pm. X-rays confirmed an occipital skull fracture: he had a fixed dilated pupil on the right side. We requested a helicopter transfer, but the cost of this combined with the remaining hours of daylight prevented this. He stopped breathing at 8pm and we were unable to resuscitate him. His parents accepted the situation without complaint, simply asking for our help to transfer the body to Isabel Province the following morning.
The election has been peaceful this year with most M.P.’s being returned. The biggest shock was that of the P.M. losing his Gizo/Kolumbangara seat, and according to rumour, being admitted to Gizo Hospital. The situation was apparently very tense in Gizo, with riot police on the streets and church representatives calling for restraint, including the United Church Moderator Wilfred Kirupitu. The M.P. for North New Georgia, Job Dudley Tausinga, also lost after about 30 years in Parliament. There seems to be some Christian Fellowship Church issue here, but details are few at present. The hospital has been quieter during the last week, but we have had a visit from Dr Michael (London School of Tropical Medicine) and his team to follow up on the Yaws survey. We also have a small team of Rotarians from Rockhampton & Mackay in Queensland who will renovate the canoe shed and do some other jobs as time allows.

Farewell to Dr Eric Pana

The Ministry of Health organised a short workshop in Honiara during the last week of October. Soraya (Hospital Secretary) and Graham were invited to attend this meeting. The topic was the cost of running health care facilities around the country, with discussion on a study done on this by a team from Monash University in Melbourne. One of the aims was to look at savings could be made by increasing efficiency at hospitals, area health centres and nurse aide posts. It seems likely that financial assistance for health care from Australia will reduce over the next few years, at a time when costs will increase, especially as the Solomon Island Health Service moves towards a doctor-led service and nurse aides are increasingly being replaced with registered nurses.

Jenny continued to work with Dr Eric Pana at Helena Goldie. He was able to spend time with his relatives in the area as well as working at the hospital. He finished work on Monday afternoon to prepare for his return to Australia, spending a few days in Honiara on his way. We are very grateful for his help as previously and we hope that he will be able to return to work at the hospital in a similar way in the future.


A near maternal death has dominated our efforts this week but thanks to the skill of our mid-wife Irene and the assistance of Dr Eric Pana together with the students of the nursing college who turned out in force to give blood. The crisis was averted: mother and baby have survived. Bleeding during labour and delivery with no facilities to do a caesarian section puts the lives of mothers and babies at risk. We were preparing to transfer the patient to Gizo Hospital but managed instead a Kiwi cup extraction but the bleeding continued. It was Irene holding it together, working through three shifts before escaping to get some sleep. Maternity ward has been full, so it was also important to keep up the routine work and make sure that the others were not neglected.
We are still seeing a number of cases of diarrhoea & vomiting as well as measles which we are trying to manage in the community.


After all the visitors of the last few weeks, it is quite a relief to have a quiet spell allowing Jenny to take a much-needed Sunday afternoon sleep in the currently empty Robina House, which remains cool until mid-afternoon. Although not busy as with the large numbers of patients seen during the epidemic in May & June, gastro-enteritis remains a problem, bringing dehydrated and sometimes fitting children to us. In addition, we now have a nationwide Measles epidemic which has caused Honiara to scale down routine medical services. A four month old boy that was discharged recently died a week later and his cousin of the same age is currently on the ward fighting for his life.
A tiny pre-term baby that we had nursed through its early weeks was doing well, but returned to the hospital this week having stopped breathing and needed resuscitation. He continues to have episodes of choking, so he is being observed closely. Fortunately we now have many very competent nurses who are able to insert the life-saving cannulas.
Maternity ward remains busy with the growing population of the Solomon Islands, many people still holding kustom or religious beliefs about family planning. The out-patient department has been keeping Graham busy, assisted on some days by Dr Eric Pana. Jenny has spent some time with him in the operating theatre. All this is manageable if we are able to sleep at night, but there are inevitable interruptions as happened last night when a lady in her 70’s was admitted in severe heart failure after a heart attack.
Please pray that we will continue to have the strength and energy needed in this situation.

General Church Assembly 2014, Ranongga Island

After many weeks of preparation, the 10th General Assembly of the United Church of the Solomon Islands started on Saturday (4th) in the small village of Pienuna on Ranonga Island south west of Gizo. Graham was invited to represent the hospital, so he left early on Monday morning with the hospital accountant (John Sasabule), travelling to Gizo on the Rava. The church canoe came to Gizo on Tuesday for the crossing to Ranonga. The hospital & college of nursing presentation was arranged for Tuesday evening, so it was quite a long day. The future of the hospital was discussed, with particular reference to the provision of medical officers.
Bronwyn Fraser arrived in Pienuna the following morning, having travelled from Sydney. She represents the Australian Uniting Church and was invited to give a presentation on the proposal for a strategic plan for the United Church. On Thursday Graham and Bronwyn returned to Helena Goldie by canoe and found Jenny working with Eric Pana. He was previously a general surgeon in Honiara but now lives in Australia. He has come to see his family and also to work at the hospital for a month. We are grateful for his help.

A Busy Week in Munda

Dr Fred Boseto (a Solomon Island surgeon now living in Australia) arrived on Friday morning of 19th September ready to see patients from Munda who needed surgery. A total of 12 patients were accepted for surgery or investigation in Gizo. The Japanese company Olympus has donated endoscopy equipment for Gizo Hospital and a team of Australian medical & nursing staff arrived there on Sunday. This is Dr Boseto’s third visit this year and he plans to visit four times next year. Our two U.K. medical students joined the tour for the week and have now returned.
At the same time people from various provinces started to arrive for a Seventh Day Adventist congress. In total about 2,500 ladies arrived, mainly from the Dorcas movement. They have lived under canvass for the week in various locations and have coped with the strong wind and heavy rain. The accompanying men have done some work at the hospital as they were not needed for security.
We also have a team of seven men from Robina New Life Church in Queensland led by Earl Reeves. He was involved with the Robina House project in 2009 and has returned to replace the roof on the nurse’s hostel. They got off to a good start yesterday despite the strong sunshine

Father’s Day in Munda

Father’s day is an important event in the church calendar. Morning worship in the church at Kokeqolo included several choirs followed by over 80 children from Sunday school singing with great enthusiasm. After the service the fathers were presented with flower garlands and then lunch in the community hall with the inevitable speeches, on this occasion given by two hospital staff: the new statistics officer Venge on behalf of the children/young people and the hospital boat driver Manasah replied on behalf of the fathers.
Rev Helena with Katy & Maxine from Uniting Health Care in Queensland attended the occasions in the middle of their 12 day visit to the hospital and college of nursing. They are currently sharing Robina House with two very enthusiastic medical students from the U.K. Watching our skilled midwife Irene deliver a footling breech with a prolapsed umbilical cord was an early introduction to life here for these students. Fortunately the baby survived and has done very well. We are grateful to the last group of medical students from the University of East Anglia (Peter, Ben and Tom) who brought with them a substantial supply of medicines: the supply of essential medicines from the National Medical Store in Honiara seems to be worse than we can remember with many items out of stock either nationally or locally.

Recent Changes in Munda

September in the U.K. marks the return of children to school after the long summer vacation and so reminds us that we are into the latter part of the year. Here the major examinations will be held between now and November, ready for the long Christmas holiday. As we reflect over the last few months, much has happened and yet there is still much more we would like to achieve. The hospital is looking good now that we have a working lawn-mower to keep the grounds tidy, but we still struggle to keep on top of the rubbish disposal and the dogs. We have seen quite a change in Munda since we first arrived: mobile telephones and the airport upgrade have brought the outside world much nearer. There are more cars and seemingly more money, although we are not sure where it comes from as most people still do not have paid employment. We are sometimes kept awake by loud music thudding from cars parked on the end of the airstrip at night.
The church however still holds an important place in the lives of many people. We have been delighted to see the return of Jim & Carolyn to Munda to complete their work on the Roviana translation of the Bible. It has been a long and arduous task but is now close to completion. In the meantime we are glad to enjoy their company when time permits.

From Pink, to Blue to White

From pink, to blue to white: our first Helena Goldie Hospital graduates finally received their 2nd part registration certificates and were presented with these, their badges and a lighted candle in a moving service at Kokeqolo church this morning. Our thanks go to their sponsors who were remembered in a speech given by Gladys Maelagi on their behalf. It is nearly 4 years since they set out on what proved to be a demanding and challenging journey for them. The hospital is now seeing a shift towards more registered nurses- an important change where future medical staffing is uncertain. Upskilling the nursing staff to run the hospital ready for any incoming doctors has been one of our major aims so it is good to see this come to fruition.
With all the visitors now gone and the hospital less busy we are enjoying a quieter spell and trying to catch up with some administrative jobs.

Three Hectic Weeks

A three week gap between posts reflects the hectic nature of the last three weeks. The highlight for us was the thirteen day visit of our son Christopher and daughter-in-law Rachel. As non-medical people they were able to make a significant contribution to the work at the hospital as well as enjoying the Solomon Island experience. They arrived in Munda with Graham who had been at the annual National Health Conference in Honiara, leaving Jenny to host the acting Prime Minister and his delegation for the presentation of $2 Million (Solomon) awarded to the hospital by the government, courtesy of R.O.C. Taiwan. We are very grateful for this boost to the ailing hospital finances. Steve Pearce from Methodist Church House in London had arrived in Munda the previous afternoon for a visit and we had an enjoyable afternoon together.
Plans for an island picnic organised by Soraya for Christopher & Rachel had to be postponed after a stabbing in the early hours of Saturday morning. Graham escorted the victim to Honiara the same day with a chisel protruding from his back. The island visit was enjoyed on Tuesday with snorkelling, coconut boules and fish cooked on a fire on the beach. We were grateful that two of the U.K. medical students were able to cover the hospital in our absence, the third was languishing with dengue fever but is now recovering. He was unable to play his leading role in a health drama held outdoors under the moon-lit sky in the nearby village of Kindu. Christopher stepped into this role and the two U.K. nursing students joined the cast as wives.