By Sarah Byrne

LIFE CHANGING surgery and training for local medical professionals is being provided by not-for-profit group Interplast in Papua New Guinea, with the company hoping to increase its contribution over the next two years.

Interplast plans to send two or three full surgical teams to different provinces of PNG, where they will spend ten days in each place, providing “life changing” surgery for up to 50 Papua New Guineans.

Four training teams are also expected to be sent to train local surgeons to build their skills so they can provide vital medical assistance in PNG communities.

Speaking with PNG Resources, Interplast chief executive Prue Ingram said the company aims to continue to work to address the need for plastic and reconstructive surgery in PNG.

Surgical teams will be sent to locations including Mt Hagen, Lae, Rabaul and Madang, as well as training teams to Port Moresby and Madang.

“This will include training in physiotherapy, nursing and anaesthetics, as well as crucial training for surgeons in treating congenital anomalies, releasing burns scar contractures, complex head and neck surgery and repairing hands and upper limbs following trauma,” Ms Ingram said.

Commenting on the challenges of providing medical assistance in PNG, Ms Ingram said the remoteness of populations and patients often presenting late to hospital were significant factors.

“Our programs over the next few years will be an important balance of surgical service and training.”

Ms Ingram stressed the importance of building the skills of the local workforce so that in the future they are able to meet the needs for surgery in PNG.

“In PNG, the need for reconstructive surgery is enormous,” she said.

“Children with congenital conditions are often ostracised by their communities and unable to go to school and get an education, and adults with acquired conditions are often out of work and unable to provide for their families,” the company said.

Interplast said progress is slow, with retention of surgeons with specialist training a challenge, as many travel overseas once they are qualified.

Over 5,186 patient consultations and 2,566 life changing surgeries have been completed by Interplast in PNG since it began working in the country in 1985.

Interplast has also run several Emergency Management of Severe Burns courses in PNG in partnership with the Australia and New Zealand Burns Association.

Interplast Australia and New Zealand works in a range of countries in the Asia Pacific region to provide treatment and training.