Global Times: China’s medical assistance boosts healthcare development in South Pacific region

BEIJING, Sept. 18, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — “For this surgery, we have prepared for more than half a year,” Xiao Yuehai told the Global Times when talking about the first laparoscopic surgery carried out in Solomon Islands.

Xiao is an urologist from the Affiliated Hospital of Guizhou Medical University (AHGMU) and a member of the second group of Chinese medical workers dispatched to the Solomon Islands.

We reused the laparoscope machines and organized a new one. This helped us save at least 4 million yuan ($548,320), Xiao said proudly.  

The first laparoscopic surgery was conducted by Solomon Islands doctors under the guidance of Chinese medical staff. As of August 22, two such surgeries had been conducted.

“In the past, local doctors had to make an opening of 15-20 centimeters on the patient’s torso when they conducted the surgery. The patient would lose a large amount of blood and have to be hospitalized for about one week before leaving the hospital. But now, they can leave the hospital two days after the surgery is completed,” Xiao said. 

Meaningful exchanges 

This is not just happening in the Solomon Islands, but the whole South Pacific Islands region. 

According to a fact sheet on cooperation between China and Pacific Island Countries (PICs) the Chinese Foreign Ministry released in May 2022, China has sent a total of 600 medical workers to PICs, who have treated 260,000 local patients, provided free medical services on over 100 occasions, and donated a significant amount of both medical machines and medicines. They have helped improve local residents’ health and local medical service capacity.

In 2014, the China-assisted Navua Hospital opened to the public in Fiji, bringing benefits to over 30,000 local residents, according to the sheet.

In January 2016, the China-Australia-PNG Malaria Prevention Program was officially launched in Papua New Guinea (PNG), effectively enhancing the ability of malaria prevention and treatment. In October 2017, the Shenzhen municipal government helped launch malaria elimination program in the Kirivina Islands of PNG, reducing the local community’s vulnerability to malaria, the sheet noted.

After the start of COVID-19, the two sides have been helping each other combat the disease. China has held more than 10 bilateral or multilateral public health expert meetings via video link with PICs, which have established diplomatic relations with China, to share experience covering disease prevention, control, treatment and diagnosis. China has actively provided vaccines, supplies and financial assistance to PICs, helping the latter build quarantine cubicles and other facilities. As of May 2022, China had provided PICs with 590,000 doses of vaccines and over 100 tons of supplies, according to the sheet. 

Restricted by their geographic location, medical standards across Pacific Islands Countries and the connectivity between the countries remains low, meaning local residents have difficulty in accessing treatment when faced with serious health issues. 

China’s medical support not only brings medicines and equipment to the region, but also advanced technologies, which have helped improve the development of local medical care and bolster the development of the friendship between China and the entire region. 

The Chinese medical team also helps the Solomon Islands to organize an emergency medical team for the upcoming 2023 Pacific Games that is scheduled to be held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, between November 19 and December 2.  

Chinese doctors’ selfless contribution has won respect and recognition of local governments and residents. 

In July, as Vanuatu celebrated the 43rd anniversary of its independence, Vanuatu President Nikenike Vurobaravu awarded nine members of the first Chinese medical team with state medals in recognition of their significant contribution to improving local medical standards and consolidating the ChinaVanuatu cooperation in medical treatment and public health.

Teaching a man to fish

Apart from providing medical services directly to local residents, Chinese medical teams also train local medical staff “how to fish” through lectures, clinical practice and training sessions, which serve to enhance local medical capacity. 

According to the Xinhua News Agency, from 2002 to July 2023, Chinese medical teams to Papua New Guinea held more than 11,000 training courses and held at least 70 lectures to local medical workers. They also provided training for the use of 240 technologies that had never been available in the country.

Medical teams in the Solomon Islands are delivering similar outcomes, despite only being active in the country for two years. 

On August 14, AHGMU and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services of the Solomon Islands signed an MOU on medical cooperation. The two sides agreed on support and assistance in upgrading tertiary hospital care at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in the Solomon Islands as the center of teaching, treatment of complicated cases and major referral center.

According to the MOU, the AHGMU will select senior doctors to be part of the China Medical Team in Solomon Islands, providing medical services to local communities. The Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Center and Minimally Invasive Urological Surgery Center will be established at NRH in the near future, in which both sides will work closely on medical equipment and instruments donated to NRH. Doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel will have opportunities to receive training and postgraduate education at AHGMU and related medical technology supports will be provided to the centers to assist NRH medical staff master specialized skills.

Growth in TCM

The arrival of Chinese medical teams also generated new awareness over traditional Chinese medicine in the South Pacific region.

“Thank you, China Medical Team, especially Doctor Jack Lei for giving much of your time with your experiences and techniques in delivering acupuncture treatment to me as one of your patients,” commented a local resident on the Facebook page of the Chinese medical team.

In less than half a year, Lei, an expert in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture from the medical team, has changed the local people’s attitude toward acupuncture from “never heard of” to “pure magic.”

Now the Chinese medial team is also teaching acupuncture and other TCM knowledge to local doctors and nurses and the team also hopes to send some local doctors to China to study acupuncture in the future.

Chinese naval hospital ship Peace Ark also visited the Solomon Islands in August during its “Harmonious Mission 2023.”

During its visit to the Solomon Islands, Peace Ark provided free medical service to local people and overseas Chinese. It also dispatched multiple medical teams to deliver medical care, critical disease consultation and academic exchange. 

In addition to the TCM consultation room’s seven beds, some patients were seen with “cups” on their backs, or needles inserted in various acupuncture points on their legs, while other received moxibustion treatment on their feet. A local woman told the Global Times that she came to the hospital ship for treatment because she heard that Chinese medicine is famous and effective for foot pain. 

“I feel very good. Chinese doctors are very good!” she said.

SOURCE Global Times