To the Rotary Club of Hall – from Liz Hearn RN, Ward Nurse and team member of the Paediatric Surgical Specialist Team the club recently sent to the Solomon Islands.

Thank you once again to the wonderful Rotary Club of Hall. In March this year, our funding was cancelled due to monetary constraints on main donor. Fortunately, The Rotary Club of Hall stepped up to provide the funds for us to travel and care for our latest group of children.  

The population of Solomon Islands is approximately 700,000 and they do not have a paediatric surgeon! Fortunately, COVID lockdowns have lifted, allowing our Canberra based, Paediatric Surgical Specialist Team, (PSST) of volunteers to provide children with life changing surgical care.

(Pictured top: Professor David Croaker, Dr Rooney Jagilly, Chief of Surgery National Referral Hospital Honiara Solomon Islands and Dr Rajay Rampersad doing one of the operations.)

The Paediatric Surgical ward fits about 25 patients in our room 1 adult per patient may stay overnight

Lead by Professor David Croaker, a team of highly motivated volunteer surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses has travelled six monthly, (except in the COVID period), to provide paediatric surgical care to the children in need. There have now been nine visits since 2015. As a member of this team since 2019, I have had the privilege of travelling four times to deliver our specialised care. 

Paediatric specialised surgical care involves life saving and/or life-changing surgeries. There is nothing glamorous about our work; we operate and care for children pre and post operatively who have been born with problems with their bowels, bottoms, penises, and assorted other general surgical complaints. Not really dinner table conversation.

The fresh pineapples are delicious Putting some Solomon Island dollars back into the economy

(Above: Liz Hearn and Dr Rajay Rampersad enjoying a few moments’ rest at a nearby market.)

Rotary Oceana Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC) does an amazing job of bringing to Australia children who desperately need surgery. The cost to ROMAC of bringing each child to Australia is near $50,000. Some children have problems too difficult to cope with in Honiara. Cardiac and most chest surgery, neurosurgery and anything needing post-op intensive care are obvious examples.

On the other hand, previously we have operated on children with Hirschsprung disease and ano-rectal malformations in Canberra on the ROMAC program. These cases, however, can often be done in the children’s home country, and we have done many such cases in Honiara now. Our role in those cases lightens the load both financially and time wise by removing the need for these children to come to Australia. 

view from a roomWe landed in Honiara at 2pm on 8th May 2023, so by the time we collected our luggage and checked into our hotel, we were at the hospital to run a clinic at 4pm, but that clinic lasted until 10.45pm. It was our first opportunity to evaluate the 50 children who were booked in for an opinion. 

Over nine days, we operated on 28 of these 50 children, in conjunction with practical education for and assistance of the Solomon Islands’ adult surgeon, anaesthetists and paediatric nurses. 

All team members volunteer their time and skills, but the cost of sending our team to the Solomons (approx $50,000) was covered by the Rotary Club of Hall. This included airfares and accommodation for 5/6 team members for about ten days, plus pharmaceuticals, surgical, medical and anaesthetic equipment.

Thanking you all,
Liz Hearn RN