EAST Timor’s shocking lack of resources means many premature babies are dying shortly after birth, which has had heartbreaking consequences for the Timorese community.
Mater’s Katherine Jackman discovered this for herself when she was invited to travel to Timor-Leste as part of the Timor Awakening program – an initiative from Brisbane based charity Veterans Care Association.
East Timor was a major area of operations for Australia in the Second World War and more than 30,000 peacekeepers served there from 1999 to 2010.
While the country was now peaceful and independent, it was still challenged by the aftermath of war with widespread poverty and limited infrastructure.
Whilst on Timor Awakening in late 2019, Ms Jackman visited the Dili National Hospital in an effort to explore healthcare in the region.
She saw the general hospital wards displayed some of the downfalls expected of a third world country environment, but she described the neonatal intensive care unit as difficult to see.
“The team on the unit shared with me that perinatal mortality were at a really high rate, and the sadness of seeing babies unable to receive the care they so desperately needed was evident on their faces,” Ms Jackman said.
“I asked the team leader if there was one thing they could wish for what would it be? They told me they needed machines to provide babies with the support they need to live, and emphasised any neonatal equipment including humidicribs would be appreciated.”
After returning home from the trip, Ms Jackman was determined to see what help Mater could offer.
“I spoke with the team at Mater Mothers’ and we found that the South Brisbane campus had a small amount of neonatal equipment no longer in use by the hospital but within factory-standard safety having the possibility of use in the future,” she said.
Mater’s biomedical engineering manager Chad Mercer said the ongoing advances seen in healthcare mean many items were regularly replaced with newer models.
“When it comes to technology and resources in the healthcare space, they are constantly changing,” he said.
“Many items get regularly upgraded but leave behind fully functional pieces of equipment with a lot of life left in them, and our team directs these items elsewhere to be repurposed at places in need.”
The biomedical engineering team and Mater Mothers’ worked with Ms Jackman to transfer neonatal equipment through to both East Timor’s National Referral Hospital and regional East Timor District capital Maliana.
“We worked to transfer the incubator cribs, packaging them up with some other general hospital supplies including alcohol swabs for better hygiene,” Ms Jackman said.
The generous donation was well received by the teams on the ground, with staff seen hugging incubators that were set to save many tiny lives.
Ms Jackman said this initiative has been a wonderful connection of Mater working with veterans to help the global community.
“The people of Timor-Leste were quick to support stranded Australian soldiers in need of medical support through ongoing combat and were responsible for saving many Australian lives,” she said.
“Like many contemporary Australian Veterans, I am proud of my service in supporting the Timorese on their pathway to freedom and independence, and this has been a wonderful opportunity to impart Mater’s Mission to meet unmet needs in the community by giving to hospitals in need.”