Cabrini Outreach has been sending an orthopaedic surgical team to Modilon General Hospital in Papua New Guinea since 2000. The team performs surgery for local residents, many of whom have had significant orthopaedic issues for many years, and [they provide] education and training for the local hospital surgeons and nurses. Patients come from surrounding towns and villages to receive attention from the skilled Cabrini team. The 2018 team was made up of two surgeons, an anaesthetist and a nurse, led by orthopaedic surgeon Adrian Trivett.
“It is quite confronting when you first go over there and challenging on a professional level but it is also incredibly rewarding,” Mr. Trivett said. He continued, “Surgeons in metropolitan Melbourne in 2018 tend to have a very narrow area of practice, but in Papua New Guinea it is back to basics, where you need to be a generalist orthopaedic surgeon.”
Mr. Trivett said the conditions at Modilon General Hospital were very different to the conditions surgeons are used to in Australia. The hospital can perform x-rays and some blood tests but has no advanced diagnostic equipment such as CT scan, MRI or ultrasound.
“There is an orthopaedic service at Modilon General Hospital but it functions at a very basic level,” Mr Trivett said. He commented, “Not only are you dealing with orthopaedic problems but you are also dealing with diseases that are typically not seen in western societies, such as polio, tuberculosis and rickets.” He said basic power supply was intermittent, at best, and the team had to learn to be resourceful under difficult conditions.
“Occasionally, the power went out while we were operating, so we were finishing operations under torchlight. The back-up generators don’t always work so you just have to work with what you’ve got. The wards are open, with 20 patients occupying each one and often there will be relatives, including children, sleeping on the floor, so it makes it pretty crowded.”
Mr Trivett said the staff and patients were incredibly grateful for the work the Cabrini team performed. “The patients are very appreciative of everything we do for them so they are really easy patients to look after,” he said. Mr Trivett said it was gratifying to be able to help people in a place where there was clearly so much need.
“It was a very satisfying experience and something that professionally hadn’t really existed in my practice before, so I was happy to lead this trip and to help so many patients. It was incredibly rewarding.”
During the week the team was in Papua New Guinea, it performed 26 operations and saw more than 50 patients, who had come from across the district to receive help from the Cabrini team.