DAISI has taken on an important task of assisting in the development and provision of health services in the Solomon Islands and has a number of impressive achievements to its credit in providing training, improving infrastructure and the provision of specialist care. ANZGITA (Australia & New Zealand Gastroenterology International Training Association) has been active in the Pacific since 2008 but has only in recent years been invited to contribute to gastroenterology training in the Solomon Islands.
ANZGITA has recently completed its ninth four-week training program in Suva with trainees from all over the Pacific. Two doctors from the Solomon Islands attended the first program in 2008 (Dr Elizabeth Ware and Dr Jerry Kena) and there have been several more on subsequent programs. It has also provided training in Myanmar and Timor Leste with requests from several other sites including Vanuatu, Cambodia, Nepal and Madagascar.
ANZGITA has a policy of only undertaking programs that have been identified by the local health care workers and administrators as their priority. For 12 years, Dr Eileen Natuzzi a vascular and acute care surgeon from San Diego has been a frequent visitor to the Solomon Islands providing training and other health care support. She was asked to assist in developing a gastroenterological endoscopy program as the Honiara surgeons recognised that they had a high burden of GI bleeding which was difficult to manage without endoscopic diagnosis. Eileen was able to source a functional endoscopy inventory in the USA and initially brought a number of US endoscopists to provide training. Three years ago she made contact with ANZGITA and Eileen now leads the ANZGITA program in the Solomon Islands as it is much more practical to bring the training from our region.
ANZGITA has mainly been an organisation which brings specialist doctors and nurses to provide training to the local health care workers on site. Two Pacific professionals have been sponsored to spend a few months in Australia further enhancing their experience. ANZGITA is now embarking on a more ambitious fundraising phase involving the GI industry companies to be better able to support the sites where we train, to ensure that they are able to provide a continuous service which was at all times safe with impeccable infection control. Ensuring that there is a pathway for endoscopy equipment to be repaired and serviced remains a challenge in many Pacific countries.
More than 60 doctors and nurses have contributed to the training programs over the past 9 years – many on multiple occasions. All have found the experience extremely valuable and rewarding. And while those on their first training program often feel that the conditions they face are poor – those who have been before remark on the improvements that they see.
The intersection between DAISI and ANZGITA is of course the management of GI problems in the Solomon Islands. While DAISI also works across many other fields of health, it is clear that we should find common ground in assisting Solomon Island professionals better manage the huge burden of GI disease that they face.
Dr Tony Clarke a gastroenterologist from Canberra is the ANZGITA Deputy Chair and Program Coordinator, having done multiple trips to the Solomon Islands implementing Gastrointestinal services at National Referral Hospital (NRH) in Honiara. He first established endoscopy training in Honiara in 2012 when he and program director Dr Elieen Natuzzi met with key surgeons and physicians at National Referral Hospital.