If you would like to volunteer your medical services in Cook Islands, Rarotonga and Aitutaiki hospital are excellent options.
The Rarotonga hospital, located in the Islands capital city, is the largest hospital in the country, with 80 beds, a variety of services and other modern amenities. There are always doctors on call to tend to emergencies and recent initiatives from the Cook Islands government have ensured that this is available without any doctor being required to work more than eight hours per day. The ratio of doctors to patients at this hospital is also very high.
The hospital, as with other hospitals on the Islands is run by the Cook Islands National Health Service, which provides a good standard of care relative to the needs of the country. The facilities in this hospital are comprised of a surgical ward, medical ward, small paediatric ward and small maternity ward. There are also two theatres and a few outpatient consulting rooms at the front of the hospital. The hospital has its own laboratory (however some tests are sent to New Zealand), x-ray and ultrasound facilities.
There is a comprehensive and compulsory immunisation programme for all new-born children in the Cook Islands, so some students may see this programme in action during their elective. Difficult clinical cases are referred to New Zealand for specialised treatment, so students should not expect to deal with very complicated cases whilst on electives here.
The hospital is run by two very welcoming doctors. The hospital is under-resourced but the staff work with much dedication and energy. Students on elective here can expect to be given a lot of responsibility and may find that they are permitted to run clinics in pairs, with back-up from the resident doctors as necessary.
Aitutaki Island is very remote and students will find it quite easy to complete all of the island attractions during their stay, such as climbing to the highest point on Aitutaki – Manga Pu (124m above sea level). Due to the lagoon surrounding the island and the remoteness of the location (you cannot see another island from the summit of Manga Pu), there is no TV station, post can take up to six months to reach its’ desination and supplies can only be delivered once a month. Importing produce is difficult because of the coral reef surrounding the shallow lagoon, which means that shipments have to be loaded onto speed boats to reach the harbour.
This elective is not for those looking for a social placement due to the remoteness of the island, however it is in an unparalleled location and offers a wealth of experieces to those who make the trip to Aitutaki, particularly as the doctors at the hospital are enthusiastic for students to be deeply involved in day to day workings.
Students who travel to Aitutaki could enquire about the possibility of taking antibiotics and other medications with them as they will be gratefully received by the hospital. However, students should check that they will not be contravening the laws of their home country and those through which they transit by taking such medical supplies with them. It is the responsibility of the student to check the viability of taking a gift of medication to the Cook Islands.