The medical elective period provides the opportunity for future doctors to experience a healthcare system in another country, and in an invaluable experience. When organizing the elective there were many aspects that I needed to consider in order to gain the most from the experience. Firstly I wanted to take my medical skills and knowledge to an area of the world where I would be of use, i.e. a middle or lower income country. Secondly, it was important that the country I ventured to spoke English as a main language as I feel that it is essential to be able to communicate with patients in a mutual language. Lastly, I aimed to find a specialty that interested me and that I was able to put my all into, and women and child health fitted this.
Medical Services Pacific (MSP) was found on the World Health Organization website, and is a non-governmental organization whose primary aim is to provide access to reproductive health care to women and young people across Fiji. Along with this MSP supports many vulnerable communities including providing a nationwide child line to aid children going through abuse and hardship.
Aim and objectives
Upon securing a place at MSP, thanks to the help of Nazura, I was able to configure my own aims and objectives for the 6 weeks period.
To gain an overall understanding of how the health system in Fiji runs, and how NGOs contribute to this system, along with providing medical aid and advice where able.
- To partake in outreach programs, allowing smaller settlements and communities access to essential reproductive healthcare
- To assist the clinic doctor in carrying out consultations, examinations and procedures
- To gain further knowledge of reproductive and child health, and bring this back to the UK
My experiences and feedback
Medical Services Pacific is a wonderful organization focused on providing care to those in need. I have great admiration for the staff at MSP for their dedication to providing counseling and medical services.
During the 6 weeks at MSP we had the opportunity to partake in three different areas within the organization. First I was based in the MSP clinic, and immediately I was able to discuss with the doctor and nurse how the ‘one-stop-shop’ clinic runs. It became obvious very quickly that the clinic has much more potential that is currently utilized. Most days the clinic was very quiet, indicating that many people do not know about the facility. Having a free, NGO-run clinic is a blessing to Suva, and so more emphasis could be put into promoting the clinic facilities. I was able to fulfill an objective and take full histories and perform examinations, along with dispensing medications where necessary.
During my time in clinic I was saddened to hear of the high number of sexual assault cases that MSP have to deal with, highlighting the issue within Fiji as a whole. MSP have a system where they are contacted by the police when there is a case of sexual assault, and they are able to provide a full medical check for the victim, also useful as evidence in court, along with counseling to support the victim through the ordeal. This aspect of MSP is extremely important, and I believe that they are doing an amazing job providing counseling to those in need.
The second area I was based in was the STI hub, a separate organization to MSP, in which we were able to take sexual histories, and provide advice. What was striking about this facility was that a diagnosis was made based on a history, rather than using swabbing and testing. This highlighted the need for more resources here in Fiji to enable more accurate diagnosis to be made.
Lastly, partaking in the outreach services was extremely interesting. Having the opportunity to take health information to communities and corporations outside Suva is one that I will treasure. During the outreach services I was able to give talks to the local communities, and advice about breast self-examination which had a good response, and provided breast examinations to those who had concerns. The outreach projects are MSP’s biggest asset, and it is rare to find an organization with such a passion for bringing healthcare to the people of Fiji.
Whilst on outreach it became clear that many people do not have a basic understanding of family planning methods, the importance of PAP smears, or indeed a general understanding of how to lead a healthy life.
If there were more organizations like MSP, Fiji’s health system would be a much better place. More funding is needed for MSP to reach its full potential, and I hope this is achieved in the near future
Many thanks to all staff members at MSP for making us feel so welcome, and we hope to visit at some point in our careers.