A surgical team in Rarotonga Hospital

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Rarotonga Hospital welcomes ongoing collaboration with visiting surgical team from New Zealand.

A surgical team led by Associate Professor Adam Bartlett, along with anaesthetist Dr Martin Misur and two dedicated theatre nurses, Josie Going and Marie Fuller, recently returned from operating at Rarotonga Hospital in the Cook Islands. The team performed elective surgeries on local patients, sparing them the need to travel to New Zealand for treatment. Dr Deacon Teapa, the resident surgeon in Rarotonga emphasised that “Many patients requiring surgery in the Cook Islands have to travel aboard to receive treatment. The financial burden, time away from home, and the absence of family and friends to support them can be overwhelming.” However, thanks to the visiting surgical teams from New Zealand, many patients in Rarotonga have been able to receive the care they desperately need without leaving their island. Vaai Basnet, on grateful patient, expressed her relief, saying, “I don’t want to have to leave Rarotonga, my family are all here, and if I have to travel to Auckland, I end up having to stay with relatives or friends.”

Surgical teams, specializing in urology, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, and laparoscopic surgery, have been intermittently visiting Rarotonga for several years to provide their expertise. This support has proven invaluable to the Cook Islands, helping bridge the gap in healthcare services.

During this recent visit, Associate Professor Bartlett’s team focused primarily on laparoscopic surgery, specifically laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a procedure commonly performed to remove the gallbladder in patients suffering from symptomatic gallstones. This one-hour operation allows patients to return home the following day and resume normal activities within 1-2 weeks. In contrast, traveling off the island for the same procedure typically requires patients to stay away for 2-3 weeks before they can return home.

The ongoing relationship between Rarotonga and the visiting specialists from New Zealand is crucial for the local community’s healthcare. Associate Professor Bartlett and his dedicated team generously donate their time and expertise to ensure that the people of Rarotonga receive the necessary medical care without the burden of traveling abroad.

“It is incredibly fulfilling to be able to give something that to us seems so little, but to the people of the Cook Islands is huge,” remarked Associate Professor Bartlett, highlighting the significance of their work. Dr Teapa highlights that the residents of Rarotonga greatly depend on the commitment and dedication of specialists like Associate Professor Bartlett and his team.

Dr Teapa commented, “Their continued visits not only improves the healthcare infrastructure and teaching of the resident staff on the island but also bring hope and relief to patients who have been suffering for an extended period.” Dr Teapa hopes that this current relationship can be fostered to involve other specialists”. The successful collaboration between medical professionals in New Zealand and Rarotonga is so important in ensuring accessible healthcare options for remote communities. As the partnership continues to thrive, it is evident that the visiting specialists are making a profound difference in the lives of the people they serve in Rarotonga.