St Andrew’s provides extra medical help in the Solomons


Photo of Dr Mark Dalton operatingAs the clinical nurse manager of St Andrew's War Memorial’s Emergency Centre, Trish Woods, had never imagined a hospital without doctors.

But this is what Trish discovered at the Helena Goldie Hospital in the Solomon Islands last year.

Trish first visited the hospital in April 2015, as part of UnitingCare Health’s Helena Goldie Project – which aims to improve the healthcare in the Solomon Islands by providing support and training to the students and staff at the Helena Goldie College of Nursing and the Helena Goldie Hospital.

And she was in awe of the nurses who continued to run a hospital with no doctors for nine months.

“The Helena Goldie Hospital has four wards including maternity, paediatric, general and outpatients and they had no doctor," Trish said. 

 “The nurses were running the hospital because they had been unable to find new doctors.

“Nurses are the backbone of medical care in the Solomon Islands and at Helena Goldie they are working in continual humidity and heat with very limited resources.”

Inspired by their strength, Trish became determined to get the hospital, located in the Munda province, additional medical assistance.

So in January, thanks to St Andrew's financial support, she returned to the hospital with St Andrew’s Emergency Centre doctor Mark Dalton and medical supplies.

“The hospital has helped us cover the cost of flights and Mark gave up his time without pay to come back with me,” Trish said.

Similarly, Dr Dalton like Trish found the staff at Helena Goldie resilient and capable.

“I admire how well the staff did with so few facilities. The standard of care the nurses provided was excellent given there was no resident doctor and very little medical input,” Dr Dalton said.

Trish said working in Helena Goldie was worlds apart from working in a modern healthcare facility such as St Andrew’s.

“Their nurses still use Mercury thermometers to take a temperature while ours are all battery-operated and electronic.

“Sometimes they don’t have electricity. This could be because a storm has knocked something out."

One of Trish’s most eye-opening experiences in January with Dr Dalton was being caught in a downpour while transferring a patient via boat to another hospital.

"We transferred a patient from Helena Goldie to Gizo, the nearest big hospital, which was about a 45-minute trip. We put an old mattress on the bottom of the boat for the patient and that day was torrential rain so we had to put a piece of tarpaulin over the top of her to keep her dry,” she said. 

The next teaching team of UCH nurses will visit in April, and will include Marilyn Woods from the St\ Andrew’s vascular and cardiac surgery ward. Dr David Coman the Medical Director of Paediatrics, The Wesley Hospital, will be visiting again in April and Trish and Dr Dalton will make their next visit to Helena Goldie in August. 

Trish is looking for your help in supplying sunglasses to eye patients post cataract surgery that another organisation will provide.

Any sunglasses, regardless of UV protection, shape, colour and size are welcomed. Just send via internal mail to St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital at GPO Box 764 Brisbane Qld 4001 to Clinical Nurse Manager, Trish Woods.