Lata Hospital

by Dr Günter Kittel (additional photos courtesy Richard Johnson and Amanda Gibbons)

Last updated 22.11.2012

Lata Hospital
Lata Hospital
© 2002 G. Kittel

This is a very brief introduction about the present situation of Lata Hospital and the surrounding area.

The Santa Cruz Islands are a number of scattered islands somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The whole population of Temotu Province is about 20,000 people. About two thirds live either on the main island or on the 'Reefs', about three to four hours away by canoe. The rest has only limited access. Tikopia, for instance, about 200 miles away from here, can be reached only by ship which is serving just four to six times a year.

Lata is a small provincial centre with a few hundred people living here permanently. There is a bank, a telecom office, the provincial assembly, the police station and the hospital.

The hospital has about 40 beds, about 20 nurses are working here. There is a small theatre, the usual wards, a TB ward, a small dental department and a malaria section.

The main problems are malaria, abscesses, gynaecology related problems, asthma bronchiale, fractures and some rare cases.

Acute problems we rarely get, the distances are too far.

In theatre we mainly deal with infections, gynae cases as D&C (Dilatation and Curettage), injuries.

In addition a lot of public health issues are carried out, like EPI (Expanded Programme on Immunization), mother and childhood programs, malaria programs, STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) programs, TB and leprosy investigations, health education and so on. Regular tours around the island are at least planned.

ward round clinic
Ward round at Lata Hospital Female ward
Photo R. Johnson, 2005 Photo A. Gibbons, 2012
clinic tour boat
Clinic in the Lagoon area (SE Santa Cruz) The tour boat landed at Lord Howe Island off the SE coast of Santa Cruz
Photos R. Johnson, 2005

To get here can be quite tough. But at the moment the flight service on every Sunday is relatively reliable and regular. There is also a ship service, which is irregular and arrives usually every three weeks. The trip from Honiara takes about 48 hours.

Dr Hünter Kittel and Richard Johnson accommodation beach
Dr Günter Kittel (left) meets Richard Johnson at Lata Airfield Richard's accommodation in Lata... and the beach near by
Photos R. Johnson, 2005

Here accommodation is only available in a local rest-house, which is not really luxurious but acceptable. It costs about SBD 25. In spite of the high annual rainfall (about 5000mm per annum) water supply remains a constant problem.

The climate is tropical, hot and sometimes extremely humid.

There is a fairly good market with supplies of local vegetables and fruits as well as fresh fish.

Lata market vegetables fish
Lata market Some of the vegetables available at the market Some of the fresh local catch from the fishermen
Photo R. Johnson, 2005 Photos A. Gibbons, 2012
kids at Nea sunrise volcano
Children in the southern village of Nea Sunrise off the NW coast of Santa Cruz Tinakula Island
Photos R. Johnson, 2005 Photo A. Gibbons, 2012

The place is surrounded by the sea, of course, there are lots of beautiful places and bays, it is also considered a very good fishing ground.

A recommended book to read is FARAWAY by Lucy Irvine, published by Doubleday.

It has to be recommended to take some literature with you, there is not much entertainment for your spare time.

I myself am the only doctor here. I come from Austria and have spent some time before in the Solomons, mainly working as Director of Health Services in the Western Province.

May 3rd, 2002
Dr. Günter Kittel
Director of Provincial Health Services
Temotu Province
Solomon Islands

© 2002 Dr Günter Kittel


February 2004: Dr Kittel is still the only doctor at Lata Hospital.

August 2005: Flight service is now every Saturday

November 2007: After several extensions in the past years, the hospital now has 75 beds.

February 11, 2008: Warren Humphries writes:

In October/November 2007 an Australian Business Volunteer, (Mr Warren Humphries) was assigned to Lata Hospital to provide a sustainable water supply to the hospital. Working with three local boys for seven weeks to install additional gutters to the large roof areas, relocate three water tanks, install 4 pressure pumps, and installing extra supply pipes in the grounds, the hospital now has a permanent and sustainable water supply of stored rain water. The hospital now has better water pressure and all taps are now working however a lot more work is required to bring the plumbing services up to a reasonable standard, all the internal piping and taps are old and in need of replacement. There are five solar hot water heaters installed on various roofs that have never worked because of lack of water pressure, these water heaters are very old and may not be serviceable, they are at present not connected to the hot water services. Dr Günter Kittel had been trying for five years to have a reasonable water supply and is very happy with the present improvements that he thought would not ever happen. The hospital now has a working laundry with a brand new washing machine. Before this the laundry staff were transporting the hospital linen six kilometers across the bay to a river washing by hand and drying the washing on river rocks when water was not available at the hospital.

Dr Kittel is due to leave the Solomon Islands where he has provided excellent medical services over the past 12 years, he will be sadly missed by the Temotu Province. Dr Kittel is going to a similar position at a hospital in Nepal.

February 13, 2008: Dr Jackson Rakei arrived today. He will replace outgoing Dr Günter Kittel.

November 20, 2012: Amanda Gibbons writes:

I thought it would be a good idea to give you the most recent and up to date information for Lata Hospital as there was a change of doctor whilst I was there on elective. The new doctor who replaced Dr Jackson Rakei is Dr Peter Roy Nukuro.

It is probably worth mentioning that there are now two flights per week. With the flights only being cancelled due to bad weather or low number of passengers (I was on elective for 5 weeks in Lata and saw only 1 flight cancelled due to low passenger numbers).

It would be also worthwhile to mention that the hospital is very under resourced and medical students should try and bring as much supplies to donate to the hospital as possible and if possible fund raise before coming over as the hospital is in desperate need of everything from stethoscopes, BP cuffs, dressings to nebulisers and ECG machine. Although they have put in applications through the Ministry of Health for this equipment nothing seems to ever eventuate.

Overall this was a very rewarding elective that opened my eyes to a different kind of medicine that I had never experienced before. It was a very humbling experience and I'm very glad I was able to experience it.