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© May 2002 Solomon Star

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Photo legends clockwise from upper left: 1 Outside of the new Fracture Clinic. 2 A nurse inside the new Fracture Clinic. 3 Some of the guests who attended the opening of the new fracture clinic few weeks ago showing the many elastic bands which can be used on people with joint and bone injuries. 4 Some of the many goods donated by the Swiss Association for the new fracture clinic. 5 Two nurses working inside the old Fracture Clinic which was just a room inside the Operating Theatre.


Orthopedic Dept developing through Swiss Association's help

The Trauma and Orthopedic Department at the National Referral Hospital has been making a lot of progress since 1994 - thanks to the Swiss Association ("South Pacific Medical Projects") who over the years has donated medical equipment and funds which today also see to the completion of its own clinic.

The Trauma and Orthopedic Department deals mainly with bone and joint problems and injuries.

Acting Head of Surgical Department National Referral Hospital Dr Hermann Oberli, who coordinates the many assistance from the Swiss Association, said the association consists mostly of his friends in Switzerland and was founded back in 1994 by members of the Lions Club Meiringen in Switzerland.

"My friends created this association because I informed them about the many problems we had to cope with in the field of orthopedic and trauma surgery in the Solomon Islands, so they put their money together to support the hospital needs. Meanwhile a lot of other people are also supporting the association with generous donations."

"When I started work at the hospital in 1993 I found that the two areas which the department of Trauma and Orthopedic needed were: staff training and infrastructure improvement. With the help of the Swiss Association and the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation, in 1994 we started training the first Orthopedic surgeon from Solomon Islands."


Dr Oberli said the training of the local Solomon Islander was also supported by the help of the Outreach Program of the Australian Orthopedic Association. Unfortunately for Solomon Islands, Dr Oberli said very soon after having gained his qualification the local doctor left early this year to work in Cook Islands.

"So in the end we produced a very well trained Orthopedic and Trauma surgeon free of charge for the Cook Islands not for this country and this is a really sad story."

"All the time and money that’s been invested in his training is now totally wasted for Solomon Islands," Dr Oberli said.

He said to train another local doctor to specialise in the field of trauma and orthopedic would take another five years.

Despite this Dr Oberli said the Swiss Association continued to fund training programs for the hospital staff. "We have sent nurses overseas for special training with Orthopedic Operations and so far this is the third year.


In terms of infrastructure Dr Oberli said the trauma and Orthopedic department has achieved one of its biggest needs which was the Fracture Clinic.

"This Fracture Clinic is part of the infrastructure because in 1994 when we moved into phase one of the new hospital we were allocated only one small room for the Fracture Clinic which is inside the operating theatre."

"This is because during the planning process the number of patients with trauma and orthopedic problems was lower, however, today the number has increased massively." "Since 1994 more than one thousand patients with fractures and orthopedic problems have been operated upon using donated special techniques and equipment."

He said it was because of the growing number of patients that the idea to establish a new fracture clinic came about.

"The Swiss Association collected money in Switzerland and asked me what kind of project they should fund with the money they were collecting so I suggested let’s invest for this clinic here and I think the limit we set was for SI$300 thousand."

Not only did the Swiss Association fund the clinic but it also sends all the medical equipment needed for the clinic.

"All the equipment in the clinic is donated by the Swiss Association so the Solomon Islands Government did not need to spend money on anything," Dr Oberli said.

General surgery

While the trauma and Orthopedic section is developing locally, in general surgery, Dr Oberli said most of todays modern developments (minimal invasive surgery, endovascular surgery, sophisticated diagnostic imaging like CT scans) are not affordable for developing countries.

"In general surgery new technologies are constantly being introduced in the industrialised world requiring very expensive equipment which the hospitals in Solomon Islands cannot afford," Dr Oberli said.

He said the only way for the hospital to benefit in the expensive world of medicine was to get support from hospitals overseas.

"That is what I’m doing: creating awareness of our needs and establishing overseas contacts. We have medical doctors, nurses, medical students and other professional people from Switzerland coming here to work with us and when they go back to their hospitals they collect things that were of no need to their hospitals and send them to the Solomons."

"A big step forward was the creation of a dedicated Internet website (www.hermannoberli.ch) by a generous friend in Zuerich, Switzerland who constantly maintains and updates the site and also bears the costs involved with it. The website is an ideal tool to serach for and find almost anything worldwide and to establish new contacts."

He said it was only through friendship that developments were taken place at some of the departments at the National Referral Hospital when there is no official help by governments, official donors and organisations.

SOLOMON STAR - Tuesday 14 May, 2002

© May 2002 Solomon Star