Sat 3rd Dec
Yesterday was a cruisy day at work, but productive. We tied up quite a few loose ends including getting our diarrhoea treatment poster properly printed by a company in town, distribution by mail of the Pharmacy Division newsletters to the provinces of the Solomons, and printing of the two surveys that Larry and James (a Pharmacy Officer and Pharmacist respectively) will conduct at 5 clinics in the Western Province next week.
I was meant to take part in this trip but health concerns over the past week and a half have forced me to pull out of it. I’m comforted by the fact that I was only ever going to be an extra pair of hands on this trip, recording the answers of nurses and patients we surveyed with translation help from James and Larry. They can still carry out the work without me. The pair will fly into Segae (I think that’s how you spell it!) on Monday and then travel to five clinics in four days. While this sounds like an easy and relaxed tour, travelling time will take up a lot of the four days so things will be tight. Everyone I talk to raves about the beauty of the Western Province with its huge lagoons and stunning environment. I’m told these remote areas capture the essence of Solomon culture so I’m disappointed I won’t get to explore these areas on my trip.
My recent health concerns have actually forced me to make urgent arrangements for an early return to Melbourne. Please don’t be alarmed, I just need to see a specialist to rule out any serious concerns. I’ve been struggling with ongoing issues since the viral gastro I had a few days after I arrived. All will be fine I’m sure, I just need to get back for specialist advice. I’ve been offered assistance and the names of doctors here who could talk with me about what’s been going on, but for tests and investigations, it’s best that I’m in Melbourne.
So I was running around during lunchtime yesterday making arrangements for my return which is all pretty much settled. I’m due back in Melbourne late tomorrow night.
After lunch, Michelle and I explained how the surveys have been together and other details about them with James, and then I took off with Michael to the timber yards! Yep, this is part of the sometimes unpredictable job description of a pharmacist working here! There’s a second level medical store being built in North Malaita (a region in the Solomon Islands) at the moment and quotes from timber companies are being collected at the moment to establish where building materials will be sourced from. A second level medical store is a storage facility that’s one step down from the National Medicine Store (NMS) in Honiara (the one I mentioned is about half the size of my local Bunnings!). The second level medical store receives stock from the NMS for subsequent distribution to dispensaries in the region and it’s very important that this secondary facility is adequate for storage of medicines and the right temperature, humidity, etc.
Unfortunately these jobs got us back to the hospital after 4.30pm when everyone from the Pharmacy goes home for the day so I could only say a proper goodbye to a handful of people who were still around when I went in to pick up my stuff. I’ll send the department a proper thank you and goodbye note from Melbourne and I can stay in touch with those who have Facebook!
We had drinks at IBS last night where there was a spectacular view over the water and to the nearby islands. It was good to be able to say goodbyes to friends I’d only really started to get to know :(
Emma and I headed down to the Make and Bake Market this morning for its debut in the community calendar. It was a great setup where locals and expats rented tables (I don’t think locals had to pay for rental, in order to encourage their participation) and sold paintings, jewellery, baked goods and many other things they’d made themselves. It was a great morning and it was good to see more people there before I leave. Emma and I met Eddie at the markets and we went onto the markets which were teaming with more fresh fruit and veges than I’d ever seen! We also bought some beautiful flowers that were too good to not grab to jazz up the house!
Just a quiet afternoon now and I might lay low tonight. Erin and Michael are taking me to the airport tomorrow (I’ll refrain from any jokes about them forgetting me..! :P) and I’ll see another couple of mates for lunch before takeoff.
I feel guilty having promised to help here and work for five weeks then having to bail out after two, but I believe I’ve achieved some good things in this short time and I have other work lined up that I can do from Melbourne to help, such as doing the write up of the surveys after they’ve been done in the Western Province and other bits and pieces like organising uniforms to be made for the staff of the Pharmacy Division across the country! We want the uniforms to be done in Melbourne because those made by local companies in Honiara are apparently not great quality...
So while this is me signing off on my stint (albeit a short one) in Honiara, there’ll be more news and I’ll be doing more work in the next few weeks to hopefully help those involved in pharmacy here. Pharmacists, Pharmacy Officers, Inventory Managers, amongst many others, work so hard and so thoroughly at what they do and the Pharmacy Division in the Solomon Islands is undoubtedly the most organised and efficient division within the Ministry of Health. Our Diarrhoea Treatment Poster was presented to a contact of Michael at the WHO yesterday to prove what work we’re doing on the diarrhoea ‘outbreak’ I’ve been going on about. We had done this when Health Promotion and other relevant Divisions had no progress to show. Anyway enough of that, I may be biased, but I’m proud of what pharmacy and its associated professionals can add to healthcare.
There is a lot of room for improvement here in Honiara and the Solomons as a whole regarding some areas of Pharmacy Operations but overall, and considering the amount of time that this place has had to rebuild itself since tensions and unrest in years past, the further potential is exciting. ‘Baby steps’ is a common reminder if discussions of health-related development issues here become overwhelming. After speaking with many expats here, I’ve discovered many options and pathways to do more great work here. All the expats I’ve met are incredibly intelligent, driven and open-minded about their work here and while obstacles might affect progress a times, their patience and determination with the process is admirable.
I’ll stop now before I go on all day. I guess what I’m trying to say is this, just two weeks of this experience has opened my eyes to the culture of this developing country and its current stage in progress and improvement, and also opened my mind to the possibilities for this nation, for me and my work. I’m excited :)
Much love to all xo