TWO Newcastle specialists have been selected by the New Zealand Government to lead a life-changing "educational expedition" to train and upskill a team of doctors in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Lingard Private Hospital gynaecologic oncologist, Dr Ken Jaaback, and John Hunter Hospital's director of anaesthesia, Dr Rob Thomas, will travel to Vanuatu on Friday to share their knowledge and skills with local doctors at Vila Central Hospital to improve their surgical proficiency.
Dr Jaaback said he expected to see patients that had suffered birth traumas such as prolapse, fistulas and "catastrophic" caesarian bleeding, with the surgeries each expected to last between one and 13 hours.
"We are not just going there to do the work, but to try to get the local doctors more comfortable and confident doing some of these procedures themselves," Dr Jaaback said. "I don't want to teach them operations that there's no chance they'll be able to do. Most gynaecologists work on the uterus, and as soon as the pathology extends outwards into the side of the pelvis or the middle of then abdomen they freak out and they can't do it.
"So it's really about going into those areas and showing them the anatomy and how to cope with things they previously would not have been able to cope with."
Dr Jaaback, who has previously completed similar educational trips to Nepal and Zululand, South Africa, will be armed with about 100 kilograms of medical equipment to donate to the Hospital.
"We'll probably do a few caesarian sections with them to show them what can go wrong, and when it goes wrong, what the options are," Dr Jaaback said.
"We will look at operative techniques to repair things like fistulas caused by traumatic childbirth. At the moment the women are just coping with leaking urine permanently, which leaves them prone to infections.
"In Australia, our obstetrics care is so good that fistulas are rare. But on the islands, you're generally delivering outside a hospital and therefore you just have to push to get that baby out, and it might tear through the rectum or the bladder.
"Then the mother has to cope with the change in her pelvic structure. Without the option of surgery, they just have to cope with it. I think it will be really fulfilling to be able to offer them a reparative process to help."
Dr Jaaback and Dr Thomas will be instructing three senior surgeons and a small group of juniors during the expedition.
"In a sense it will be an exploratory first week, because I suspect it will be a service they will want repeated," Dr Jaaback said. "If I don't give these doctors some more confidence, then I think we'll have failed."
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