Sunday 21 July 2013

Port Vila

Last night I mentioned that extreme dentist Lyndon had made a suction unit from a vacuum cleaner, bottle and a myriad of hoses, pipes, wires and switches.  It’s truly a contraption to behold and in the short term it will be used in the Pt Vila clinic and out on the remote dental tours in the months and years ahead.


Following on from the visit earlier in the month from Melbourne dental machine technician Bill Stoney, (to ensure all the equipment in the clinic is up and running), however,  it’s been amazing to experience the continued generosity of those in the dental community.  In this case, Bill himself and the supplier of quality dental suction units Cattani Australia.    The cost of these machines is measured in the $ thousands and then there’s air freight and (probably) customs duty on top.  It’s just a wonderful gesture and from what we understand it’ll be air freighted  to Port Vila in the next week or so.


As mentioned in earlier communications, the key element of the Vanuatu Dental Care Service is a message of Education and Prevention; about caring for teeth, brushing everyday and understanding the effects of sugar in the diet.  The fully functioning dental clinic in Port Vila, however, will provide a wonderful platform and base from which to
teach and mentor Ni-van dental care workers; to build up a local team of dental practitioners that can spread the message and service throughout the many islands of this (very) spread out country.


Lyndon and Morinda’s dental work in the villages over the past 2 weeks has been a valuable time of learning, which will help in formulating our plans for the future as well as recommendations to the Health Department and other groups working in this field.  Some of the preliminary findings are listed below:

•       Government Nurse Practitioners should be trained and resourced to deliver educational material, in particular to young mothers, children and young adults, as well as in scaling teeth (using hand tools) to remove accumulated tartar or calculus and the making of small fillings.

•       School teachers should be trained and resourced to deliver educational material to their students on oral hygiene as well as being trained to screen children’s teeth, through observation, to assess their need for early intervention treatment and make referrals to the local health practitioner.

•       Distribution of (fluoride) toothpaste, plus instructions in the making of basic toothbrushes from local materials.
•       Advanced dental training, accreditation and resourcing of nurse practitioners to treat a wider range of dental problems, including extractions and larger fillings; and knowing when to refer patients to regional centres for further assistance.

•       Regular media campaign, print, TV and radio, to promote the message of oral hygiene, utilizing popular sporting or music personality.

In other news, the blurry-eyed team members Lyndon, Kristie and James were picked up at 4:30am this morning, with Richard Tatwin in attendance to ensure everything went to plan.  Richard, “the everywhere man” was also preaching at the main central church this morning (and then later in the afternoon in the north of the island) but in the brief time I spoke with him this morning he said that the checking-in arrangements were delayed at the airport this morning, making for a slower than usual process.  I look forward to hearing from the guys themselves.


Being Sunday we are officially allowed to be a bit lazy today, but as they say on boats … “a place for everything, and everything in its place” … they also say … “worst things happen at sea”  … but we choose not to dwell on that.  Anyway, we are finally starting to impose order on Chimere’s cargo, stores, equipment and “stuff”.


Part of the problem I think, stems from the fact that the original loading of Chimere back in early June (in Melbourne) was not only hurried, but also focused more on simply squeezing everything on board, rather than finding things again in the future.  On arrival in Pt Vila, most of the dental supplies and equipment was taken ashore, but with a multitude of places to actually store and hide stuff, it’s only now that we are imposing a form of order and re-packing things. This will be of particular importance to the next volunteer team who start arriving next Friday (26/7) – for example, I’m sure they’ll eventually  want to know where the peanut butter is.


A bonus from our systematic clean-up was that this evening we found a black garbage bag stuffed into the back of a cupboard with all the remaining MSM shirts in it – something I’ve been hoping to find for about 3 weeks.  Also on the “found” list tonight was a new projector, complete with speakers, which was packed in its own special bag and put somewhere “safe”.  Up until now I was convinced it had been taken off with all the dental supplies in late June, but it too was found in a “previously searched” cupboard.  Of lesser importance was the large container of dishwashing liquid – found, and a bag of Cherry Ripes – found.  The case of the lost cashews still remains a mystery and kiwi
John denies all knowledge of them … a sign of sure guilt to be sure –or maybe they were never packed aboard. (or maybe they were eaten before the boat left Westernport)


Having successfully backed into our sea-wall berth the other day, tomorrow we plan to undo all the good work and head a few hundred metres up the shoreline to the fuel dock where we plan to top up the tanks with diesel.  One benefit of the strong winds of the past few weeks, and the voyage over from Australia for that matter, is that less fuel has been used , hopefully resulting in a slightly less painful invoice than expected.


After fueling-up I’ll get a chance to prove that backing into the berth the other day wasn’t a fluke.  One thing’s for sure, there won’t be a large audience this time because all of the Oyster Round The World cruising yachts have headed off now – next stop McKay Australia.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and more suction on the way.

Rob Latimer

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