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High praise for East Timor nursing

St John of God Health Care’s contribution to improving health care in East Timor has received dual endorsements, being praised in a comprehensive review of its Dili-based Nursing Development Program and receiving recognition from outgoing president, Dr Jose Ramos Horta.

Having initiated a Pathology Development Program with the Timorese Ministry of Health in 2004, St John of God Health Care expanded its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region’s newest country by establishing a Nursing Development Program in 2010.

A review of the first year of the Nursing Development Program, conducted by development expert Dr Elizabeth Reid AO, recognised ‘a well designed capacity building program which has already, in its establishment phase, achieved significant outcomes in a challenging context.’

Praising the dedication, competency and commitment of nurses employed in the program, Dr Reid states: “The Program is appreciated by the Timorese at all levels and has earned strong support from them for its continuation, consolidation and measured expansion.

“Few capacity building efforts in Timor-Leste create such a sense of pride in achievement, of self-esteem and engagement, particularly during their establishment phase. The Nursing Development Program has achieved this. This is an important benchmark of success,” Dr Reid added.

With only a handful of nurses remaining at Dili’s National Hospital – Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares (HNGV) – when East Timor claimed independence in 1999, and no formal nurse training until 2008, St John of God Health Care was approached by the Timorese Ministry of Health to develop nursing in 2008. The organisation committed to funding this program over five years through its Social Outreach and Advocacy Services, focussing on areas of high mortality and high morbidity.

An initial team of nurses was deployed in June 2010, to work closely with Timorese nurses and HNGV staff to provide training, mentoring and support. Dr Reid’s report highlights the deployment of nurses on permanent two-year contracts (rather than fly-in, fly-out arrangements), effective learning of local languages and a genuine partnership – engendering trust with the Timorese, as clear success factors.
Anthea Ramos, Group Manager for International Health, said: “The report produced by Dr Elizabeth Reid is a glowing endorsement of our nurses outstanding qualities. They have shown great resilience, flexibility and passion in a challenging environment and a willingness to remove themselves from a relatively comfortable living in Australia.

“To know that this program is greatly appreciated by the Timorese is very encouraging and we will now work on further recommendations from the report in order to further strengthen our capacity building work in East Timor.”

St John of God Health Care has also been recognised for its wider contribution to health in East Timor with caregivers receiving certificates of appreciation from outgoing president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Jose Ramos Horta at Dili’s Presidential offices. In addition to the commitment to nursing, St John of God also supports the Timorese health sector with a national Pathology Development Program and a primary health care partnership with the Bakhita Community Medical Clinic in the Ermera District.

See photos of our Nursing Development Program on Flickr.