Hello babies…and Lenakel Hospital

Bridging Health members head out to Lenakel Hospital and multiple mobile clinics during our recent visit to Tanna Island. And we get to see how difficult primary health care can be in a place where resources are strained, roads are rough and time is ‘island’.

The road to the Lenakel Hospital is steep, and the last few hundred metres are rough. The view, however, is spectacular. Patients lounge around the lush green grounds, waiting to be seen at outpatient clinics or to see relatives.

The team was taken on a guided tour of the facility, which serves the entire island and was badly affected by 2015’s Cyclone Pam.

We saw tired equipment and under-resourced and worn-out staff all working hard but with good cheer.

The ED had one bed, the birthing bed had cracked leather and was rusty.

In Australia, the theatre bed would not look out of place on a dump heap.

And as in Australia, getting staff to stay at the remote facility is difficult.


This baby did not survive the night, despite the efforts of our team members to raise its body temperature,  and get it into a working humidicrib.

While we oohed and aaahed over the babies in the maternity ward, we were all very aware of how lucky these babies were to have survived.

And just after our visit, a baby born malnourished to poorparents died.

It was an emotional time for our nursing staff, who had fought to better its chance.


Team organiser Michelle Yasso gets to know one of the newborn babies in the maternity ward at Lenakel Hospital.

Like most hospitals, Lenakel keeps extensive records, although they are mostly paper. However, once we got out into the clinics, we found it difficult to identify patients who often only had a first name and no idea of their birth date if they were older than 35.


The Lenakel Hospital’s filing room

I got to spent time with the hospital’s sonographer, Shamina, who works under difficult conditions but obviously has a passion for her role. It was a privilege to earn her friendship. and I feel compelled to go back again.

Having seen the hospital, the team turned its attention to  holding mobile clinics and hopefully unpacking our two shipping containers full of medical equipment and donations. They had been delayed by cyclonic seas, so our timetable had been rearranged – not for the first or the last time…

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