Australian Volunteers Refurbish Port Olry Health Centre

A Santo nurse has expressed her heartfelt gratitude to a group of Australian volunteers who refurbished the neglected community health centre in Port Olry, a small North-East Santo town near the famous Champagne Beach.

Aid organisation Two Llamas, headed by Australian journalist Chantal Dunbar, refurbished the centre over the course of several days, late last month.

The charity noted that the Port Olry health centre also serves all the surrounding villages and described previous conditions at the centre as “inadequate to service even the most basic needs; let alone facilitate the safe delivery of babies”.

It published photos that appear to show damaged hospital beds, filthy sanitary facilities and disorganised medicine storage shelving.

The photos may raise questions about whether North Santo healthcare services have been systematically neglected by the government.

Two Llamas also published an appalling description of alleged previous conditions at the clinic. It claimed, “Only a single toilet and shower were (somewhat) operational, beds were broken, mattresses missing, there were no mosquito nets, there were few supplies, doors were missing, broken or rotted through, sinks were not plumbed, there were no supplies to enable disinfecting of furniture and rooms and there was no autoclave to sterilize equipment.” It moreover noted that “staff morale was extremely low” at the centre.

Whatever may have been the cause of the apparent dereliction of the health centre, it is almost unrecognisable in new images that the results of what the Australian volunteers called the “massive transformation”.

The charity explained, “Doors and plumbing were repaired or replaced, rooms painted, mosquito nets hung, furniture replaced, supplies unpacked, and storage solutions assembled”.

An autoclave, a specialist machine that kills dangerous bacteria left on medical equipment after use, was donated for use at health centre by the Melbourne company Siltex.

There was also an effort to give staff lasting knowhow and supplies. “Training was given in commercial cleaning and sanitation, with sufficient supplies donated to last for a year”. The Australian team was assisted by local volunteers from Port Olry.

Their aid efforts were facilitated by the Rotary Club, to which Two Llamas head Dunbar belongs. Financially, their work was only possible because of the generosity of “private individuals and small businesses across southeast Queensland” who responded to a “four month” fundraising drive. The Vanuatu Ministry of Health also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Rotary Club, “enabling duty and government charges to be waived” on a container full of vital refurbishment supplies that was brought over from Australia.

As the work to refurbish the health centre got underway, the renovated labour ward at the health centre saw its “first patient”. Two Llamas described her as “a beautiful baby girl who was born just an hour after the room was completed”.

The charity thanked “clinic staff for their hard work and commitment”.

Radiant Stanley, a nurse at the health centre, thanked the people who gave with their hearts, to assist the clinic. “The staff and community of Port Olry really appreciate the work and donations,” she said. “The assistance is a first of its kind to us.”

Conditions had really improved at the centre since the refurbishment, the experienced nurse said. “The patients can now access medical supplies to improve health care… We are very thankful to Chantal and the team from Australia for renovating the Port Orly Health Centre.”

The Charity also carried out renovation work at a North- East Santo kindergarden. Two Llamas provides aid across the South Pacific, including to West Papua and Timor Leste.

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