Rural hospitals are a very challenging place for doctors to work in. Especially if you have just graduated or a general practitioner working with a mission. Specialist advise and consultation is unavailable and important clinical decisions have to be made which can determine whether someone lives or dies.
I have been struggling on my own for sometime now at the Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital after our missionary surgeon passed away early this year. The other doctor who works here is away on study leave – he is doing a Master of Medicine in Rural and Remote Medicine. This post-graduate course has been revived by the University of Papua New Guinea Medical School after a long time. Donor organisations such as WHO and AusAid are supporting this course and hopefully we will have more PNG doctors interested in rural and remote medicine.
While doing research training in Japan I formed this discussion forum using yahoo groups (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/pngdoctors-general/) to keep contact with friends and colleagues to discuss medical issues affecting PNG. This group is called PNG Medical Doctors Group. This was also the beginning of my interest for telemedicine in developing countries. After returning to PNG, the group discussions were not as frequent as it used to be and one of the main reasons was that internet access was not so readily available. However, in the past 12 months internet services in PNG has rapidly increased. Most families in urban PNG can now have internet access at an affordable price, thanks to Telikom PNG.
Two months ago Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital installed its own ViaSat internet system. This got me excited again so I sent and email to the discussion forum members with the idea of members reviewing x-rays that I will upload and the members can provide a feedback. I got a reply from Daniel Priest ( http://www.priestfamily.info/), based at Rumginai Rural Hospital (http://www.rumginae.info/) telling me about the Swinfen Telemedicine network (http://www.swinfencharitabletrust.org/). It is a UK-based organisation called the Swinfen Charitable Trust set up by Lord and Lady Swinfen in 1998. The telemedicine network allows for provision of specialist opinions on medical conditions to doctors working in developing countries. I have contacted them and I think Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital will soon use this service.
Thank you Swinfen Charitable Trust.