Murdoch’s medical marvel

St John of God Murdoch Hospital emergency nurse Jodie Thompson with local women in Papua New Guinea.
St John of God Murdoch Hospital emergency nurse Jodie Thompson with local women in Papua New Guinea.

Emergency nurse Jodie Thompson, who works at Murdoch Hospital, is part of a healthcare team that regularly visits PNG to pass on key skills to community health workers.

Jodie said when she first visited the PNG clinic, which is up to two hours’ walk for most local people, had no electricity and relied on a seldom-used generator.

‘When I say it’s two hours’ walk, that is two hours up and down very steep hills, often carrying a sick child,’ she said.

The group, which is made up of staff from St John of God hospitals across the country and one volunteer engineer, stays for about four weeks per visit, sleeping in a tin shed with no hot water and with rats running across their beds on the floor.

During this time, they teach local health workers about basic life-saving CPR, wound care and hand hygiene.

‘When we first started to visit, the workers didn’t know how to wash their hands properly but now they do,’ she said.

‘Most patients are there due to malaria, wound abscesses, pneumonia and diseases linked to poor hygiene.

‘Local people live in huts with no electricity or running water and poor hygiene is the biggest contributor to health problems.’

Solar panels were installed on the roof during the group’s last visit, allowing a fridge to be powered and vaccines kept on site.

‘Most babies are born at home and the hospital is so far away and hard to get to that immunisation just doesn’t happen,’ Jodie said.

‘Children still die from common childhood diseases.

‘We have educated workers on how to administer immunisations and they can safely store the vaccines in the fridge.’

The group’s next visit will focus on providing the necessary skills for delivering babies at the clinic.