AFTER WEEKS of fundraising and intensive preparation, a UnitingCare Health team made its first visit to the Helena Goldie hospital on Munda in the Solomon Islands in April.
Team members were selected from UnitingCare Health hos-pitals to take part in a project to support Helena Goldie involving a series of short visits to work alongside staff at the hospital – developing relationships, building skill capacity and providing in-service training to hospital staff.
Registered nurses Wendy Zernike and Natasha Moon from The Wesley Hospital, pharmacist Samantha Nothling, UnitingCare Health, and UnitingCare Director of Mission Rev Robyn Kidd arrived on Munda to discover that they were the first visitors to stay in the newly built guest accommodation Robina House built with funds raised by Newlife Uniting Church, Robina, on the Gold Coast.
The Helena Goldie nursing college was also officially opened while the UnitingCare Health team was on the island.
Ms Kidd said after the celebrations it was down to work for the UnitingCare Health team.
“We spent much of the time helping in the hospital wards, gaining an understanding of the conditions that the staff work in, the equipment available and the kind of illnesses and conditions the patients presented with,” she said.
Conditions at the 55-bed hospital are basic.
Other than an old X-ray machine there were no diagnostic tools, no running water and two out of three of the sterilising machines weren’t working when the team arrived.
“Despite the conditions, we felt that we could never go there and think we could teach the staff our style of nursing – the skills level was just awesome,” said Ms Kidd.
“What they lacked in equipment and conditions, they certainly made up for in the level of spiritual care,” she said.
“The whole operating theatre stopped to pray before an emergency caesarean operation.”
Ms Kidd said a highlight of the trip was the opportunity to join the Helena Goldie medical team for the final day of a five-day health clinic tour around the islands.
“We were blown away by the work that was done by the visiting health clinic – the medical team involved did so much incredible work in the most basic of conditions.
“As we walked uphill to the village we could hear people calling from hilltop to hilltop.
“People came from everywhere – they were still climbing the hill after we had been there an hour.”
Patients were treated for all kinds of ailments and injuries and there were many vaccinations and health checks to conduct.
“One thing that came out of this trip for us was the importance of continuing to raise money for these clinics, they perform such an extraordinary ministry,” she said.
The UnitingCare Health team aims to return to Helena Goldie hospital towards the end of the year and have two trips scheduled for next year.
Photo : RN Wendy Zernike presents Henry Gumi, Director of nursing at Helena Goldie Nursing College, with Resus Annie. Photo by Robyn Kidd