Pacific Partnership medical teams provide critical care

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

Location(s): Arawa, Papua New Guinea

Bougainville locals wait in the rain for medical screening and treatment at a community health engagement as part of Pacific Partnership 2015. (photo: ABIS Chantell Brown)
Bougainville locals wait in the rain for medical screening and treatment at a community health engagement as part of Pacific Partnership 2015.

Despite challenging weather conditions and burgeoning crowds, hundreds of people from Arawa, Bougainville, have received medical care from doctors and specialists attached to PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015.

A community health engagement at the Arawa medical clinic was attended by family physicians, paediatricians, dermatologists, dentists, optometrists and physical therapists who also braved tropical rain to tend to the needs of the local population over recent weeks.

Royal Australian Navy doctor, Commander Darren Delaney, a family physician who normally works in the emergency department, said it was a huge cooperative effort from medical staff from hospital ship USNS Mercy, which lay at anchor several miles offshore from the Arawa community.

“As part of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015, we have been working with military medical staff from the United States, New Zealand and Japan, as well as Fijian and Papua New Guinea locals,” Commander Delaney said.

“Most of the conditions we are seeing have not been treated fully or to an acceptable standard. There are a lot of dermatological problems and unfortunately, in this part of the world, malaria and dengue fever are rife.”

Commander Delaney said doctors had also seen children and adults with muscular skeletal problems, cleft palates and tightening of areas of their bodies which prevented the most basic of functions, like swallowing and eating.

Many of those cases were being screened at the clinic and prepared for transfer to hospital ship USNS Mercy where patients would receive life changing surgery.

According to Commander Delaney, the local nursing staff at Arawa Clinic had been performing admirably with their limited resources and access to specialised medical skill-sets.

“We come from countries which have access to the very best facilities to work in an environment which has very limited capacity in terms of health care delivery. It provides a different perspective as we see what people can do with so little.”

For the doctors and specialists from USNS Mercy, the community health engagement was an opportunity to give something to a community which makes do with little, but is grateful for the chance to receive the best.

“We’re providing what we can under the circumstances and we get tremendous joy when we can deliver life saving treatment to people so they can receive a second lease on life,” Commander Delaney said.