A 10-day visit to the National Referral Hospital by an Australian volunteer ear, nose and throat (ENT) medical team has been successful, with the team holding more than 105 consultations and performing 21 operations during their visit.Life changing surgery was performed on patients with ear and hearing problems, tonsil, throat and neck conditions, as well as nasal and sinus problems. The visit was funded by AusAID and arranged by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
The team of Dr Brian Costello (surgeon), Dr Alastair Walpole (anaesthetist), Ms Tania Wieg (nurse) and Mr Simon Davies (audiologist) were busy treating and screening people from across the Solomon Islands.
The team was supported by Australian Volunteer audiologist Annette Kaspar who is based at Helena Goldie Hospital in Munda and travelled to Honiara to assist with screening patients and local surgical trainee Dr Larry Lagatiana, who is currently studying at the University of PNG.
Dr Costello said the annual ENT visit gives Solomon Islanders the chance for specialist consultations and treatment not available in country.
"We've had a successful visit and tried to help as many people as we could. Some patients could not be treated because of the on-going medical treatment required and this will only be possible once Dr Lagatiana completes his training next year," Dr Costello said.
"With Dr Lagatiana and the very good ENT nurses now at the hospital, supported by the ongoing visiting medical teams, many more people will be helped in the future. Our visits are also a great training opportunity for local staff and we have enjoyed worked closely with our Solomon Island colleagues to share knowledge and help build skills of local doctors and nurses."
Audiologist Simon Davies said that in addition to the consultations and surgery, more than 70 people had their hearing tested and had undertaken screening for possible treatment.
"The ENT nursing staff are very professional and highly skilled in ear care and treating ear disease. Their initial screening was one of the reasons we have been able to see and treat so many people on this visit. We've also used the visit to work with ENT nurses Obiga Newton and Hellen Lovi to further extend their training and expertise so they have the full range of skills to continue to treat patients with ear problems," Mr Davies said.
Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Matt Anderson visited the team at the hospital and thanked them for making a difference during their time in Honiara.
"Not only do they make a difference to the people they treat and operate on, they also boost the skills of the local surgeons, doctors and nurses at the hospital, which leaves a lasting legacy," Mr Anderson said.
"The visiting team told me they learnt as much from the local medical staff as the training and skills they were able to share. This is because of the resourcefulness and ingenuity required for local hospital staff to do their job and how they overcome equipment and supply shortages. The visits definitely offer mutual benefits to both parties."
Mr Anderson said the ENT visit is one of several specialist medical visits made every year to Solomon Islands and is an important part of Australia's ongoing assistance to the Solomon Islands. The Australian Government currently funds around 50 surgical team visits to Pacific Island countries every year to fill gaps in local medical services and provides on-the-job training to local medical staff.