Love Timor Project: Bobonaro is an arm of the larger church-linked outreach mission to East Timor. The project started with English language teaching programme for the community in 2015, followed by a pilot medical project in 2016 which led to the discovery of the shortfalls in the community's healthcare needs. Subsequently, a reconnaissance trip was organised in May 2019 to understand the health needs of the local community and provide support in a sustainable manner.
Partnering Maliana General Hospital (MGH), which is the main hospital in the district, and Maliana Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), the project aims to commit bi-annual medical missions over an initial 3 years to allow longitudinal development based on information and experience from each prior mission.
In the maiden medical mission done over two weeks in October 2019, our team of two doctors and two nurses from the National University Hospital (NUH) Emergency Department (ED) were invited to join other external dentists, audiologists, and an internist to address the following needs requested by MGH:
- Emergency Room (ER) capacity building
- Dental clinics
- Chronic health education
We were told a story by the MGH doctors staffing the ER, of a patient found lifeless in the hills. The patient had been driven to the hospital in a personal vehicle for one hour without basic life support measures. To make matters worse, the vehicle was stopped for 30 minutes right outside the hospital to allow a flag-raising procession to complete.
This is just one example of emergency responses that the local doctors lament about. From the team's short visit, it was clear that East Timor needs better land access, pre-hospital systems, ER capabilities, and definitive care. Before all that, community sentiment to ignore an emergency out of fear of being blamed for involvement needs to be changed.
With the short time afforded to us, the ED team ran a basic life support program, including theory and mannequin-based practical sessions for 25 doctors, nurses, and medical students from MGH. By the end of the week, the community had responded by sending their firefighters and police officers to join the training.
In an attempt to empower the local nurses to train their own community, we collaborated with MIST to start a basic life support training program using the materials and equipment we brought.
Alongside us, the team of audiologists fitted 40 patients with hearing aids and screened around 100 patients, while the dentists ran four full-day clinics.
These are the first steps towards addressing the true health needs of a community like Bobonaro. While a longitudinal perspective has already been adopted via the capacity building and training of trainers for basic life support, hearing-aid maintenance, and audiology and dental education, Bobonaro needs more than just individuals from a few invested departments. She needs a transformation across the closely linked departments that make up a healthcare system, and her people will live better as a result.
How you can make a difference
While a transformation in the healthcare system at large will take time, we hope to continue to support the people in Bobonaro through our medical mission by providing training and education to equip the local communities with healthcare knowledge, and empower them to take better care of their health and that of their loved ones.
Your generous support for the mission will go a long way to make a difference to the healthcare needs of the people of Bobonaro.
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