Surgical teams perform life changing operations

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Darren Mallett (author), ABIS Chantell Brown (photographer)

Hospital Ship USNS Mercy off the coast of Bougainville during patient transfers from the mainland during Pacific Partnership 2015. (photo: ABIS Chantell Brown)
Hospital Ship USNS Mercy off the coast of Bougainville during patient transfers from the mainland during Pacific Partnership 2015.

More than five hundred patients a day received medical care from teams of doctors and specialists based in United States hospital ship USNS Mercy when the ship anchored off Bougainville coastline recently.

As part of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP, a humanitarian and civic assistance program, multi-national teams from Mercy visited the mainland to screen, diagnose and treat patients, some of whom have waited their entire lives to see qualified medical practitioners..

PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015 is an annual US-led mission which visits communities in the Pacific to deliver engineering and medical assistance to those who need it most.

Royal Australian Navy doctor, Commander Darren Delaney, was one of a team of specialist Navy, Army and Air Force specialists who deployed for this year's mission, said the most serious cases and those which require care that could not be delivered ashore at community health engagement sites were transferred to the thousand-bed hospital ship USNS Mercy.

“Medical staff  commonly see children and adults with muscular skeletal problems, cleft palates and tightening of areas of their bodies which prevent the most basic of functions, like swallowing and eating,” he said.

“Yesterday was a typical day onboard Mercy where there were four separate surgeries on cleft palates, cataract removals, hernia repairs, a foot amputation and an operation on the major bone in the thigh of one patient.”

Prognosis for people who are unable to receive surgery varies, but what is certain is that people who have their conditions repaired by surgery face a much brighter future due to the efforts of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP.

Even for patients whose conditions are not life threatening, quality of life improves with surgery.

“This young boy suffering from cleft palate will now be able to speak properly and most importantly for his culture, be able to smile when he greets people,” US surgeon Lieutenant Commander Eamon O’Reilly said.

Volunteer surgeon Commander Marion Henry spent a few hours working on a young boy repairing a hernia caused by a genetic defect at birth echoed those sentiments.

“Without this surgery, this hernia would continue to grow until adulthood,” Commander Henry said.

“It would become increasingly painful and prevent the patient from being able to work.” 

Now in its tenth year, PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP missions have provided real world medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and delivered critical infrastructure development with 180 engineering projects in host nations.