Monday, 7 November 2016

Local connections sponsor Solomons nurses

Nurses at the Solomon Islands’ largest hospital will soon be provided with much-needed kits to help them perform their work thanks to a partnership between the Bendigo Strathdale Rotary Club and Monash Rural Health.

A series of coincidental connections and a shared commitment to assisting the under-resourced hospital has seen the local service club raise funds for 11 ‘nurse starter’ kits, worth around $1000, which will soon be delivered to the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in the country’s capital, Honiara.

Sponsorship partners: Mary Preston (Rotary), Pam Harvey (Monash Rural Health), Ken Longford (Rotary) and Liz Longford (Rotary)
While members of the Bendigo Strathdale Rotary Club travelled to Solomon Islands several years ago to provide financial support for a number of programs, club secretary Mary Preston said their efforts were complicated by ‘not really having contacts on the ground over there.’

Nevertheless, the club remained open to finding ways to ease health challenges in the Islands, which include a rise in non-communicable diseases and premature deaths. In recent months, a practical opportunity emerged through Bendigo clinical specialist nurse Lynne Wanafalea who has travelled to the Islands to spend 12 months as an emergency nurse advisor at the NRH as part of an Australian federal government project.

Mary said the local Rotary club already knew of Lynne, who worked in Bendigo Health’s emergency department and at Monash Rural Health Bendigo, teaching clinical skills to medical students.
Lynne has her own connection to the islands, being married to a chief of an area of Malaita, one of the main islands. She and her husband have six children and have lived in Bendigo for the past 23 years.

Within her first month at the NRH Lynne was struck by the urgent need for basic nursing tools including stethoscopes, blood pressure monitors, thermometers, scissors and penlights.  She contacted her Monash colleague, senior lecturer Pam Harvey praising the hard working NRH emergency nurses but raising concerns about the poorly resourced facility which was contending with cases including dysentery, malaria and tuberculosis.

Monash Rural Health staff and medical students pledged their commitment to helping, via a ‘Sponsor a Solomon Island Nurse’ project and as part of this effort Pam contacted the local Rotary club which quickly supported the cause. “We saw this as a really practical way to help out - we know the nurses will be able to use these kits for a long time to enhance their work - and also a safe option, knowing that someone will be travelling to the islands and delivering the kits,” Mary said. With the support of Bendigo-Waverley South, the local club ran a raffle with the proceeds subsequently donated to purchasing the nursing kits.

This month, a friend of Lynne’s will hand deliver the kits to NRH nurses including Florence Aluta, who shared her story as part of the ‘Sponsor a Solomon Island nurse project.’

“My favourite role in the emergency department is triage…this can become very frustrating at times though, when we have no equipment to do patient assessment,” she said. “Nearly half of our patients are babies and children who can deteriorate very quickly – any equipment to help us would be fantastic.”

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