In the first two days of the Northern Provincial Hospital’s (NPH) Health Week, over 600 men, women and children have already accessed and received specialist health care services in Luganville.

The hospital Health Week is the first of its kind for any hospital in Vanuatu, and with a coverage population of over 35,000 people on Santo alone, NPH has seen some of the biggest numbers of patients since the week kicked off.

Surgical, Paediatrics, Radiology, Ophthalmology, Dental, Maxilo-facial, Internal Medicine, NCD, Mental Health and Obstetrics & Gynaecology specialist clinics have seen over 100 patients combined each day; with the majority of cases being seen by the General Outpatient department of NPH.

Dr Andy Ilo, NPH’s Medical Superintendent, explained that all the services this week were free in order to encourage community participation and promote health seeking behavior.

“NPH has funded all of the travel and accommodation for the ni-Vanuatu specialists and other senior health staff, who have travelled from Vila,” Dr Ilo clarified.

“When we fell short we asked our sister provinces and private partners to assist with making the services free and ensuring that the public can access specialist services at their doorstep,” he said.

The Health Week was opened by Director of Curative and Hospital Services, Mr Russell Tamata, who praised the objectives and organization of the NPH Health Week.

“I hope that other hospitals can learn from you, and that you can continue to lead and grow and help the people of Luganville and SANMA,” he said.

The week kicked off with a parade through Luganville town, displaying the banners and public health messages form each hospital department and included a “mobile theatre” float parade prepared by young medical officers.

“We want to share the message of good health to our population, so we decided to display a theatre setting to capture people’s attention and encourage them to come to NPH for free clinics and free check-ups,” said Dr Ryan Lulu, who is a graduate from the Cuban training program.

“Health is an individual’s responsibility, while hospital services is a community responsibility,” said Dr Vanua Ilo, a final year intern, “and we all have an important role in looking after ourselves but also knowing what the hospital offers”.

The Health Week was funded by NPH as a result of the hospital’s focus to build community ownership and promote primary health care through its education sessions and panel discussions.

“We have topics being presented for the public on stage every day, added Dr Lawrence Boe, NPH’s Medical Services Manager.

“We want the issues discussed to be made public so that our populations in Luganville and the wider SANMA area can be educated and understand the challenges and risks with communicable and non-communicable disease.”

Dr Boe confirmed that a Mini-Health Conference will be held on the final day (Friday 12th April) and this event is also open to the public from 8am.

“We have invited the public to attend and listen and contribute to some of the medical research presentations and we hope student and adults alike will be informed and educated through these sessions,” Dr Boe says.

Throngs of patients have been registered and treated so far with some travelling as far as Big Bay, Matantas and south Santo.

“No-one will get left behind or not be seen,” said Dr Basil Leodoro, NPH’s only general surgeon.

“We are here to offer free service and eduction to students, families and elderly also,” Dr Leodoro said.

The NPH Health Week has brought together all private and public sector partners and it is something that the NPH and SANMA Provincial Health team hope to build on.

“We have partnered with most of our stakeholders in this Health Week,” says Dr Andy Ilo, “and we want to continue to strengthen this partnership to ensure that specialist and general clinic health services reach the most remote and most vulnerable members of our population.

“Yes, this week is going to be tough with so many people coming in, but the role of a hospital is to serve our people and help the long term goal of a healthy Vanuatu”.

Clinics at the NPH Health Week open at 8am with registration and clinics will remain open until 5pm each day this week.

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