ADF helps Vietnam as a Pacific Partner
24 June 2014
Australian Defence Force personnel have provided valuable training for more than 300 medical practitioners and improved the living conditions for 100 orphans in Vietnam.
Six medical officers from the Navy, Army and Royal Australian Air Force conducted basic life support training seminars at the biggest and busiest hospitals in Da Nang city from June 7-18 as part of Pacific Partnership 14.
ADF contingent commander Lieutenant-Colonel John Cronin said “the workshops served to enhance the ability of local doctors and nurses to provide improved health care.”
The ADF medics conducted training at the Da Nang General Hospital, the Da Nang Orthopaedics and Rehab Hospital and Military Hospital 17, where they received praise from local officials for their subject matter expertise.
The ADF medical team included Flight Lieutenant Ben James, Lieutenant Craig Blackburn, Lieutenant Rebekah Tomlinson, and Leading Aircraftsman Sean Boller, as well as other medics.
One of their biggest challenges was using interpreters to communicate with their Vietnamese counterparts during the training seminars.
At the Da Nang Orthopaedics and Rehab Hospital the ADF medics provided training in treating wounds, anaesthesia, prosthetics, medicine, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Lieutenant Rebekah Tomlinson, from Rockingham in WA, said the hospital provides extensive services for 20,000 out-patients per year, including many victims of unexploded ordnance who have blast wounds.
“The interaction with the staff was phenomenal because the doctors and nurses were so enthusiastic about providing their patients with the best treatment possible,” she said.
She said the ADF medics delivered seminars designed to enhance the knowledge of local medical practitioners which was a better long term solution for improving health care than directly treating patients.
At the 500-bed Military Hospital 17 the ADF team conducted specialist training to enhance the nursing staff’s military medical evacuation procedures, as well as the treatment of trauma and battlefield wounds.
FLTLT Ben James, from Ipswich, said the ADF team provided training in basic life support and advanced cardiac life support, which among other things improved the hospital staff’s knowledge of emergency procedures.
“The military doctors were shy initially, but our Aussie humour helped us to break the ice and maximise the training benefits,” he said.
The training provided by the ADF medics at the Da Nang General Hospital will help the staff to treat more than 2000 patients each day for trauma, illnesses, emergency care, depression and dental care.
LEUT Craig Blackburn, from Cairns, said the hospital staff appreciated the training but they lack the equipment to provide proper medical treatment for so many patients.
“The emergency department has such limited resources that the equipment we used for the training seminar was later utilised to treat a severely injured road accident patient,” he said.
“The doctors do the best they can with limited resources but they are overwhelmed each day by so many patients.”
100 orphans in Da Nang city have a better quality of life and education thanks to a refurbishment project by US Army Engineers and ADF personnel.
Four ADF support staff including Flight Sergeant Troy McKibbon and Leading Air Craftman Keiran Righetti helped to refurbish the Tram Y Te Phuong Hoa Quy orphanage and clinic during June 7-15.
LAC Righetti said they painted the walls of the orphanage, laid concrete floors and removed tons of rubbish in sweltering, 40-degree heat.
“We volunteered to help out with manual labour, but the real reward was playing games and laughing with the orphans, despite the language barrier,” he said.
Local officials praised the Australian and US service personnel for their work, saying they breathed new life into the orphanage which had fallen into a state of decay over the past 10-years.
The ADF contingent departed Da Nang on June 15, embarked in the 9,000-tonne JS Kunisaki, to continue the multinational humanitarian assistance mission in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville.
Pacific Partnership is an annual event, designed to improve maritime security, conduct humanitarian assistance, and strengthen disaster response preparedness through closer regional cooperation.
The Pacific Partnership series of exercises was conceived following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami as a way to improve the interoperability of the region’s military forces, governments, and humanitarian organisations during disaster relief operations.