Over 10 days Acting Manager of Patient Care Services Jane Leadbetter and Registered Nurse Prue Pincott will help treat 1,000 patients. Mainly, the pair will be involved in primary health care including wound management and immunisations. They'll also participate in developing a sustainable long-term plan for the Jantho Hospital medical facility they'll be working from.
An hour's drive from Banda Aceh, Jantho was almost totally wiped out by the December-26 earthquake and tsunami. According to Dr George Somers, the rural Victorian GP who is leading this aid effort, almost every person there is still coming to terms with having lost family, friends, homes, possessions, employment, community, and consequently, identity.
A Fellow of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and the person responsible for developing the Division of General Practice's General Practitioner Response to a Disaster Program, Dr Somers has spent considerable time in the Aceh area since the tsunami struck.
He says there's desperate need for psychological support for Indonesian primary health care workers who are attempting to help their countrymen and women while, at the same time, trying to come to terms with their own personal losses. The majority of primary health care workers (doctors and nurses) were either killed or physically and or mentally affected. Additionally, many of the region's community health centres and sub-health centres (puskemas and pustu) were destroyed.
'People need to discuss their experience and situation but have told our team that they cannot do so because there is no-one they can talk to who hasn't also been affected. And opportunities (to help improve the situation) are further restricted by the lack of a place in which to mix socially apart from temporary accommodation. There are few places to sit in the shade. Few trees, apart from coconut trees, have survived. Few buildings are safe. Few social venues, such as restaurants and coffee shops, exist,' Dr Somers explains.
Jane and Prue will add significant value to Dr Somer's humanitarian efforts to improve life on the northern tip of Sumatra. Their expert medical skills aside, Jane speaks Indonesian (she lived in Jakarta for three years) while Prue comes with international aid experience and community development know-how (having helped care for burns victims of the Bali bombings and having volunteered with a Non Government Organisation in Thailand).
The pair will team up with two other women in Melbourne before flying out Friday on this part volunteer/part funded assignment. South West Healthcare is generously providing two-thirds of Jane's and Prue's wages. They, in turn, are generously volunteering the remaining third of their time in Jantho and are paying for all costs including airfares.
This international mission - to reconstruct the region's entire primary health care system - has the blessing of the Indonesian Government.
Photo: South West Healthcare nurses, Acting Manager of Patient Care Services Jane Leadbetter (left) and Registered Nurse Prue Pincott, head for tsunami-devastated Indonesia this Friday on a major international assignment.