Vanuatu


Report 1

 

Reporter: Chiraag Thakrar

Contact at destination: Dr Julianne Tevi (tevij@vanuatu.gov.vu) or Dr Andy Ilo (ailo@vanuatu.gov.vu). Beware that it can take some time to receive a reply, so message early with queries.

Year of visit: 2015

Region: Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Institution: Northern Provincial Hospital

Department: General Surgery/Medicine

Work / Study undertaken: Ward rounds, assisting in surgery, helping out during outpatient clinics. You are made to feel part of the team and are involved in decision making of the patients’ care.

Description of destination: The hospital is located on a hill, ten minutes away from the main town of Luganville. It serves the local population of the island and also those on surrounding islands.

Were the locals friendly?: Very friendly. Locals would say hello if you are walking in the main town and all the shopkeepers are friendly and helpful. Patients were equally as friendly at the hospital and took a genuine interest into you. There is no bartering with taxi drivers and fixed prices, which is good because you don’t feel like you are paying over the odds.

Did you feel safe and if not why not? I felt safe all the time, however, I’ve heard it can get too lively during the weekend nights when the locals go out to drink. The accommodation we were staying in had security guards during the weekend for this reason.

What did you do in your spare time? I took an open water diving course and had the opportunity to dive on the SS President Coolidge, which I would definitely recommend. Visit the blue holes around the island (there is a number of them, all of which are slightly different shades of blue), try Kava (a popular social drink), visit Lope Lope Lodge on Sundays to try their lunch buffet and kayak over to Riri Blue Hole. Last but not least, do the Millenium Cave tour, the money you pay to do the tour helps to support the education of children living in the local villages.

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do?
Try the local food and visit the local market in Luganville to really experience local life. If you have the chance go over to the island of Tanna for Mount Yasur.

What was the climate like?
It was hot and sunny so take sun cream and also insect repellent. It can rain, however, and the type of rain is usually torrential but short, so you will dry off quickly!

What was your accommodation like?
I stayed at Hibiscus Attraction Center. It was excellent! The owners are really helpful and even wash clothes for the “Baby Docs”! It is overall a sociable place to stay, there were other elective students staying there at the same time. There is free wifi too, which is an added bonus. I visited some friends staying at the hospital accommodation which was very basic and they did not have hot water for showers.

Did you enjoy your visit?
Yes, I would definitely return if I got the chance!

Did you find it useful medically? Yes. The beauty of Vanuatu is that you are able to gain a very ‘hands-on’ experience. You will learn a lot and become comfortable with a greater amount of responsibility, which is beneficial for after graduation.

Has it improved your French? Yes, it provided me a good experience to practice my French. I was also able to pick up Bislama (a form of English-based Creole), which also incorporates several French words, which I spoke with the locals. There are also many French tourists visiting the island and so it was useful to speak with them too.

Has it increased your knowledge of French culture? Perhaps not of French culture directly, but I was able to appreciate the impact it has had on the local culture, which has now incorporates aspects of French culture.

If you went back would you do anything differently? No, I absolutely loved my experience in Vanuatu!

How did you get there? London to Auckland to Port Vila / Espiritu Santo

What was the approximate total cost? ~£2500. Flights were the most expensive part of the trip. Accommodation and food is good value (as long as you do not plan to eat Western food all the time). You can get a good dinner at the local market for less than £4.

Is there any other information that you think may be useful?
Take plenty of insect repellent. If you are planning to stay at Hibiscus Attraction Center, email in advance to book a room. Drink bottled water. Reef shoes can be useful if you are going diving as you walk in from the shore and it can be very harsh on your feet.

Report 2

Reporter: Elizabeth Day

Contact at destination: Dr Thomas Sala (tsala@vanuatu.gov.vu) He can take a little time to reply and don’t expect too much contact with him prior to your visit.

Year of visit: 2012

Region: Vanuatu, Espiratu Santo

Institution: Northern District Hospital

Department: O&G, General Surgery

Work / Study undertaken: Ward rounds took place every morning and were good to attend as they helped me integrate into the team. I encountered quite a range of conditions on the surgical ward, although fractures and abscesses predominated. There is one true general surgeon operating as well as the O&G team. They are very happy for you to scrub in – my best experience was delivering twins by C-section. I also spent a good deal of time in the antenatal clinics. The midwives let me take these independently and it was an excellent experience.

Description of destination: The hospital is small and has five wards (Paediatrics, Surgery, Medicine, Maternity and TB). There is also an outpatient department as well as ophthalmology and dentistry.

Were the locals friendly: Absolutely, some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They really go out of your way to help you – you just need to ask! They love talking about their family which is also great if you want to practice your Bislama or French. I had some wonderful conversations with taxi drivers during my stay.

Did you feel safe and if not why not? Yes – during the day. I walked home a few times in the dark and felt safe but the nurses don’t like you doing it. The hospital has a couple of security guards who can walk you home or they put you in a taxi/hospital car if you live a bit further afield. The taxi drivers are also very friendly and don’t try to rip you off at all!

What did you do in your spare time ? There is plenty of things to do. I spent a lot of my spare time scuba diving but there is plebty to do above water. There are some incredible beaches and blue holes and millennium caves is a must do – it’s a mixture of hiking, scrambling and swimming. The market was a wonderful place to walk around and we met a number of locals through the hospital who invited us to visit their villages/ see their local football team play.

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do? It was just amazing to immerse yourself in another culture, the Ni-Vans are so welcoming you can’t help but make some wonderful friends! I would just recommend getting stuck in and don’t be afraid of talking to people.

What was the climate like? Its hot and humid and it will rain at least a bit while you are there. You get used to it fairly quickly and will even be able to play a game of ultimate Frisbee with the volunteers and expats by the end of your stay! Dress in the hospital is relaxed, but its best to cover your shoulders and try and keep skirts and shorts below the knee.

What was your accommodation like? I was lucky enough to stay with a friend but there are a number of options. Other students stayed at the Hibiscus and Unity Motels, which looked very comfortable. The hospital is also refurbishing the student accommodation and it should be ready early 2013.

Did you enjoy your visit? Yes, it was so much better than expected.

Did you find it useful medically? Yes, working independently in clinics was a great experience and I got a good deal of practical expereicne in theatre too.

Has it improved your french? Yes, it took a little while for it to come back but I often had to use a mixture of French, English and Bislama to take histories in clinic and on the ward. I also met a number of children out and about who only spoke French so they were great practice and I think I provided them with some amusement!

Has it increased your knowledge of French culture? Absolutely of Ni-Van culture, which has a mixture of traditional, French and English influences.

If you went back would you do anything differently? Only get stuck in earlier, I was too shy in the first week or so and didn’t talk to many people.

How did you get there? London – Brisbane – Vila – Santo

What was the approximate total cost? Flights £1100, other costs ~ £100/ week (food, taxis, excursions). Western food is fairly expensive as it’s all flown in, but you can eat local meals for very little at the market.

Is there any other information that you think may be useful?

You need to take malaria prophylaxis and be aware of Dengue fever. Sun cream and mosquito spray are also a must. I also wish I’d brought more anti-histamine for all the insect bites and reef shoes are really useful as the rocks at the beaches can be pretty sharp. Alcohol is expensive so if you want a gin and tonic to keep the malaria at bay I would bring a bottle from duty free!

Report 3

Reporter: Gareth Thomas

Contact at destination: Lester Evans (best to phone the hospital rather than email

Year of visit: 2009

Country:Region: Santo

Institution: Northern District Hospital

Department: General Medicine & Surgery

Work / Study undertaken: I did a mix of general medicine and surgery. Ward rounds were useful to attend and surgery was also interesting to see. You are given the freedom to chose what you would like to do when you get there. There is also paeds, A&E, Obs& Gynae and ophthalmology on offer.

Description of destination: The hospital itself is fairly small with around 100 beds in total and has fairly limited facilities and drug supplies although does have access to x-ray. The hospital is situated in walking distance of Luganville, the main (but still fairly small) town on the island. The island itself is beautiful and there is loads to do outside of the hospital.

Were the locals friendly: Yes unbelievably so. It is definitely worth getting to know the local ni-vans. The dive instructors are also a good laugh to hang out with.

Did you feel safe and if not why not? Yes, very. But we were a group of three guys – the girls we were with did not feel unsafe.

What did you do in your spare time ? We travelled all over the island – lots to see and do. Scuba diving is well worth doing, especially the night dive on the Coolidge- it was incredible! Best of all though was going to stay for the weekend in one of the rural villages – the cook in the hospital invited us to stay with her family.

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do? Do some rural health medicine. Get to know the local ni-van people… they are sooo friendly and it is great to see and briefly be a part of a totally different culture.

What was the climate like? HOT! And pretty humid but the bedrooms and common room have fans and you get used it pretty quickly.

What was your accommodation like? Relatively basic but had everything you need in kitchen. Relatively expensive at £200 for the month which was more than we were expecting to pay.

Was it provided? Yes

If not who arranged it?

How much did it cost? £200 for a month !

Did you enjoy your visit? Yes! It was fantastic!

Did you find it useful medically? Yes, good hands on experience with limited resources. You can do as much or as little as you want so it is really up to you how much hospital time you put in.

Has it improved your french? Yes, I had several conversations in a mix of French and bilama and also improved my French during the first half of my elective in preparation.

Has it increased your knowledge of French culture? Definitely the Ni-van culture!

If you went back would you do anything differently? No

How did you get there? London – Auckland, Auckland – Port Vila, Port Vila- Santo – Flights.

What was the approximate total cost? Flights £1200, accommodation £200, living costs ~ £100/ week (it is quite an expensive place to live). If you scuba dive, which is definitely worth doing that is an extra £200 to learn and £40 per dive after that.

Is there any other information that you think may be useful? Make sure you have enough malaria prophylaxis, mozzie spray (DEET), sun screen and maybe antibiotics as these either are unavailable or ridiculously expensive. Also, if you have room in your luggage it is worth taking any food, alcohol you can fit in as it will save you quite a lot of money rather than buying it there. On the plus side the fruit and veg market and the butcher is great and really cheap!

Report 4

Reporter: Sarah Davies

Contact at destination: Dr Kasso (Medical Student Elective Coordinator)

Year of visit: 2006

Country: Vanuatu – South Pacific

Region: Espiritu Santo

Institution: Northern District Hospital, Luganville.

Department: Mostly maternity and paediatrics, but also general surgical and medical wards

Work / Study undertaken

During the month at the NDH, I had the opportunity to participate in ward rounds, attend operating lists, have my own on-call duties, and sit in during outpatient clinics. However, I spent the majority of my time in the maternity department, carrying out newborn baby checks and assisting in births. I also completed a research project to investigate the impact of malaria infection during pregnancy on infant growth.

Description of destination

The Northern District Hospital is situated on-top of the hill overlooking Luganville town and the Segond Channel. It has beautiful views over the island and across to Aore Island. The hospital itself has approximately 130 beds in 5 separate wards; medicine, surgery, paeds, O&G and TB. It also has a busy Outpatient department run by specialist nurses, a Radiology building (I rarely saw x-rays requested) and a basic laboratory (Full Blood Counts and Malaria screens). The hospital has on-site accommodation (I didn’t stay there because we were told that it would be full at the time – it wasn’t) and a common room for elective students.

Were the locals friendly? Yes, extremely friendly. Everyone (including complete strangers) would say hello as you walked about the town. There were a lot of helpful ex-pats and diving instructors too.

Did you feel safe and if not why not? Yes, very. However, I was always in a small group of people. I wouldn’t suggest walking around Luganville on your own at night (same as for any UK town).

What did you do in your spare time? Swimming at Deco stop Lodge next door to the hospital and attending their Custom Night, kayaking in the Segond Channel, diving the SS President Coolidge (a WW2 massive shipwreck) and Million Dollar Point, visiting beautiful beaches (Champagne Beach) and Blue Holes, neighboring islands (Aore) eating out at the Market Stalls and Chinese restaurants. Plenty to do at weekends, we didn’t get to see everything in 4 weeks!

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do? Going on-call at night, delivering babies (midwives are all lovely), day trips and diving – I recommend getting your PADI Open Water Certification in Vanuatu if you don’t already have it – diving here is not something to miss out on!

What was the climate like? Very hot (up to 34 degrees) and humid (up to 80%) (May-June), often cloudy with some rain, but some very nice sunny days too!

What was your accommodation like?

At the Beachfront Resort (just under 2 miles from the hospital) – you can get a taxi to the hospital for 200 vatu (about £1) each way, and it is not difficult to hail down a taxi each morning. The Beachfront Resort was lovely. Four of us stayed in the ‘Divers’ lodge with an ex-pat retired diving instructor. 3 separate bedrooms – diving instructor in one, and 2 single beds in the other 2 rooms. Has 2 bathrooms (one with hot water, although cold showers are fine in the heat), a fully equipped kitchen and very comfortable lounge with sofas, computer, TV and DVD player. (NB: internet in Vanuatu is slow and not cheap!)

Was it provided? We organised it ourselves because we had been told that the hospital student’s accommodation was full. (8 person capacity). As it turned out, it wasn’t but we decided to stay at the Beachfront lodge anyway.

If not who arranged it? We did, via their website and by emailing Dave Cross.

How much did it cost? Approximately £300 for a month.

Did you enjoy your visit? Yes, it was one of the best experiences of my life so far. I would love to go back and work at the hospital again.

Did you find it useful medically? Yes. Although having since done Obs and Gynae in the 5th year, I feel that I could have done a lot more in the maternity department and gained more hands on experience. On-call was useful for dealing with acutely sick patients, although your treatment options are very limited, and often confined to paracetamol, chloroquine and amoxicillin.

Has it improved your French? It has improved my Bislama (known as Pidgin English) which is a mixture of the traditional Ni-Vanuatu language, French and English.

How has it increased your knowledge of French culture? Not really – but it has definitely increased my understanding of the Ni-Vanuatu culture.

If you went back would you do anything differently? Spend longer there! Deliver more babies.

How did you get there? London – Brisbane (BA) – Port Vila (Air Vanuatu) – Luganville, Pekoa airport (Van-air)

What was the approximate total cost? Flights £1300 (round the world ticket is the cheapest option), plus £120 internal return flights, accommodation £300 (at Beachfront Resort not in the hospital), living costs approximately £100 per week.

Is there any other information that you think may be useful?

We were told not to book our internal flight from Port Vila (the capital of Vanuatu on Efate island) to Espiritu Santo until we arrived at Port Vila airport following our international flight from Brisbane…..This is NOT a good idea! The airport staff were shocked that we has not got our onward flight and it was a hassle to sort it out in the departure area of Port Vila airport.

Since we returned, I believe you can now fly direct from Brisbane to Espiritu Santo (Pekoa airport) and therefore miss out having to stop over in Port Vila.

Visit the active volcano on Tanna island instead of spending time in Port Vila. We didn’t and wish we had!

Report 5

Reporter: K.Kulkarni

Contact at destination: Dr Sameesa

Year of visit: 2005

Country: Vanuatu – South Pacific

Region: Santo

Institution: Northern District Hospital

Department

Work / Study undertaken: I spent most of my time between outpatients and the medical/paeds and surgical wards (and theatre).

Description of destination

Vanuatu is a group of islands in the South Pacific, about 3 hours from the east coast of Australia. With a population of only around 200,000, most locals live in traditional villages, There are only 2 real ‘towns’ as such – the capital (Port Vila on the island of Efate) and Luganville (on the island of Santo). These are also the places that are home to the 2 main hospitals of Vanuatu. Although the hospital in Vila is relatively quite well equipped in terms of staff and equipment, the Northern District Hospital is much more basic. It has around 100-or-so beds housing medical, surgical, paediatric, obs & gynae and TB patients. In addition, there are a number of outpatient clinics, the bulk of which cover general problems/infectious diseases (almost all malaria). There are monthly eye clinics/theatres held by visiting doctors. The hospital itself has x-ray facilities, a basic laboratory (malaria films and full blood counts only, really) and limited ultrasound facilities. The hospital is situated up a hill above the town of Luganville.

Were the locals friendly? Very.

Did you feel safe and if not why not? I felt very safe in Vanuatu, but then I was always with a group of people. Due to the fact that it is not a very populated place with limited street lighting, it can get very quiet and dark at nights even in the ‘towns’.

What did you do in your spare time ? Read lots of books. There islLots of things to see around the island (beaches, caves etc.) and on other islands (eg. Volcanos, etc.). Not huge amounts of restaurants/bars/shops around so it’s not the busiest elective destination.

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do?

On Santo: Champagne beach and millennium caves (and lots of good dive sites if you like to dive). Be warned though…the nearest dive doctor is on Vila so if something goes wrong, you have to treat yourself. Thought that might scare you.

Also, go to the island of Tanna (see the volcano). And on Efate, see the cascades just outside Vila and go big game fishing around Lelapa island.

What was the climate like? Rains a lot, but always hot. Santo is less hot/sunny and more overcast than Vila. Tanna is a bit cooler.

What was your accommodation like? Good. 4 rooms, each with a bunk bed and a single bed. All have attached bathrooms. Some beds have own mosquito nets. A students common room/kitchen is attached, which has a TV/DVD player and some books.

Was it provided? Yes.

If not who arranged it?

Check when arranging elective. Lester (a nurse) sorts out getting keys for you when you get there.

How much did it cost? About £50 for first 2 weeks, then about £25 per week after.

Did you enjoy your visit? Yes.

Did you find it useful medically? Yes and no. Very little of what you learn is applicable back home. For something different and the chance to ‘do as much as possible with very little available’, definitely.

Has it improved your french?

If you went back would you do anything differently? No.

How did you get there? Air NZ (Lon-LA-Fiji). Air Vanuatu (Fiji-Vila). Van Air (Vila-Santo). The Van Air flights are around £100 return. Ask for student discount (25% off).

What was the approximate total cost? Flights £1200, accom £50, living costs £100ish/week.

Is there any other information that you think may be useful? The old electives coordinator (Dr Chris Tari) has left and so there is noone really coordinating things. Dr Sameesa is the best person to contact at the hospital as he will be there in the near future so will be your best bet for organising electives.

Report 6

Reporter:

Contact at destination:

Year of visit: 2000

Country: Vanuatu – South Pacific

Region: Santo

Institution: Northern District Hospital

Department

Work / Study undertaken: I did general ward work in medicine and paediatrics but students can choose which areas they work in. We had an-call responsibilities – very good practical experience. I did some work on diabetes in Vanuatu

Description of destination: The hospital has 100 beds and medicine, surgery, paeds, O&G and TB wards as well as out patients, X Ray, laboratory and limited ultrasound facilities. The hospital is on a hill above Luganville, a small town (85,000) with fairly basic but adequate shops, restaurants and bars. Beautiful Island

Were the locals friendly: Yes lots of ex-pats and diving instructors

Did you feel safe and if not why not?Fairly, but we were always in a group. some verbal abuse was experienced from local men

What did you do in your spare time ? DIVING – excellent location, relatively cheap, good instruction. Sight seeing on island visits to beaches, local villages and jungle. Interesting history from world war two.

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do? Diving, trips out to villages with rural medicine teams, on-call very good experience, basic medicine but lots of signs

What was the climate like? Very warm, end of rainy season so some enormous downpours (brief) overall pleasant

What was your accommodation like? On hospital site. Just behind medicine ward. TB ward very close! opposite ecompression dive chamber. Basic but adequate. Single room for 2 weeks, shared for 2 weeks. En suite bathroom with cold water, fan. Basic cooking facilities. Can accommodate up to 8 students.

Was it provided? Yes

If not who arranged it?

How much did it cost? £50 for a month !

Did you enjoy your visit? Yes, enormously

Did you find it useful medically?Very. Good practical experience, confidence building. On-call support varies but generally adequate

Has it improved your french?

Has it increased your knowledge of French culture?

If you went back would you do anything differently? No

How did you get there? London – Brisbane, Quantas Brisbane – Port Vila – Luganville, Air Vanuatu

What was the approximate total cost? Flights £1000, accommodation £60, living costs ~ £100 / week

Is there any other information that you think may be useful?

The doctor now in charge of electives has just taken over the job and appears very organised. Previously arranging the elective has been very difficult …. Fax is the best way to contract, or phone Santo is 11 hours ahead of UK. Take malaria prophylaxis and a mosquito net and lots of insect repellent. Enjoy – its great!