Vanuatu partnership for Cwm Taf Morgannwg medics
A special partnership between medics in South Wales and the South Pacific is underway to fund medical supplies and send health professionals to island communities to teach new skills.
The initiative between Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Vanuatu is the brainchild of Dr Les Ala, an acute physician at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. Currently, in the early stages, the partnership aims to raise funds and share best practice with health professionals in Vanuatu, who often work with basic equipment and in simple facilities.
From Vanuatu originally, Dr Ala returns to his home nation as regularly as he can, taking supplies donated by Cwm Taf Morgannwg and running training sessions, as well as visiting his family. On his most recent visit at the end of 2019, Dr Ala was able to take with him two donated defibrillators, one for each of the main hospitals in Santo and the capital, Port Vila, while the health board has also previously supplied 10 boxes of intravenous cannulas.
Dr Ala is now due to meet with health board managers to plan how to best develop the partnership. In addition to raising funds and providing medical equipment, Cwm Taf Morgannwg is keen to send health professionals such as specialists doctors and other healthcare colleagues to share knowledge and best practice with staff on the islands.
Dr Ala said: “We are in the planning stages of establishing a formal link between the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu and Cwm Taf Morgannwg to oversee the deployment of healthcare professionals to support and mentor newly qualified doctors.
“The aim is to help them achieve their specialist competencies and to provide much-needed specialist services there. It is hoped that, as the project evolves, other healthcare professionals, such as biomedical scientists, midwives and other allied healthcare staff, will join up.”
During his recent visit, Dr Ala met with the medical superintendents of the two main hospitals in Vanuatu, the Director of General Health, the acting British High Commissioner, and the main stakeholders in the Vanuatu Health Programme, which is an Australian government-funded health assistance programme. The consultant is also launching a charity called Wales for Vanuatu (WAFORVAN), with involvement from the health board to help administer this link.
In 2015, Dr Ala flew to his homeland to offer support in the wake of Cyclone Pam, which devastated parts of the country. Dr Ala worked around the clock, treating hundreds of patients and repairing medical equipment after the cyclone wiped out food crops and left tens of thousands of islanders without a home.
In 2018 he returned to Vanuatu for an extended honeymoon with his wife Ruth, a cardiac physiologist at the Royal Glamorgan, where their families met for the first time.