Villagers appreciate NZ Defence Force’s Tent Hospital

The temporary tent hospital inside the Paul VI College grounds, Leulumoega village

APIA: 08 August 2012: A 100-strong New Zealand Defence Force medical contingent has been in Samoa since 28 July for Operation Tropic Twilight.

Working in collaboration with Samoa National Health Service, with funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme, dozens of patients have been seen and at least 20 minor surgeries have been performed.

“The reception from the Samoan public has been very positive,” said Lt Col William Twiss, commanding officer of the three-week humanitarian aid and disaster response exercise.

“Given the robust public response, we are on track to achieve our objective to perform at least 40 minor surgeries and may even exceed it.”

The New Zealand Army ferries patients living in remote villages to and from the hospital. “We’ve come a long way but like any mother, I worry and I will cross oceans if that is what it takes to ensure my daughter’s good health,” teacher Hatesa Kirifi said.

“Operations are beyond the reach of people like me. I had long wanted to have this procedure but I just don’t have the money,” said 69-year-old farmer Samuelu Siaosi. Mr Siaosi, who supports eldest daughter Merita and her two adolescent children.

Another mother stated “I thank God that the New Zealand Army has come with their doctors. My son has been in pain ever since he was born. But from this day, he will finally be a normal teenager; no more pain, no more teasing and no more missing school,” whose 15-year-old son underwent an hernia procedure.

Lt. Col. Twiss

Lt. Col. Twiss said three primary health care teams comprising of military doctors and nurses from New Zealand, Australia and the United States left on 1 August  to go on a 10-day outreach in Savai’i.

The New Zealand Army’s Dental Corps, led by Major Colin Fraser, have been running a 3-day-long dental clinic at a primary school in Sauniatu village in the main island of ‘Upolu’ from 6 August.

On August 7, three Army engineers went to Poutasi village to fix the plumbing at a primary school and  to help build a kitchen and shower block for the community hall.

A team of around 30 Army doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and medics, supported by about a dozen civilian healthcare volunteers from New Zealand hospitals, are currently working at the tent hospital set up on the grounds of Paul VI College in Leulumoega village.

The hospital has a fully equipped operating theatre similar to that in any New Zealand hospital. It has two wards, one for the recovery of patients who underwent surgery and another for non-surgical patients. Five diesel generators power various medical equipment, lights and airconditioning units.

Exercise Tropic Twilight, which is conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force in partnership with the New Zealand Aid programme runs from 28 July to 19 August. The contingent taking part in the exercise includes 10 military personnel from Australia, the United States and the French Army New Caledonia.