The Inauguaral Mission

With the mission date confirmed efforts began in earnest to assemble the team. Calls for volunteers received enthusiastic support. Requests for equipment were successful. Medical supplies were amassed. Corporate donors were forthcoming. Both people and organizations in New Zealand responded very warmly and enthusiastically to the objectives of the mission.

A team of three was appointed to spearhead the mission. Dr Sunil Pillay headed the Obstetrics and Gynaecology team, Dr Ajay Kumar headed the Specialist Physician team and Bob Naidu was the Project Manager, with CEO Mr Deepak Tahal.

The logistics of getting equipment and medicines to Fiji were commenced.

The majority of team arrived in Lautoka on the evening of 26 November 2010 and settled into their accommodation. The team commenced work the next day at 8.00 am completing the unpacking, distribution, setting and testing theatre gear and seeing pre-operative patients by 4.00 pm the same afternoon. As all was in readiness, surgery was commenced a day earlier.

The Medical team spent this time organising their large medical supplies and diagnostic equipment and transporting them to the district hospitals ready to start the next day. This major logistical task was only possible with the collaboration of the total visiting team and local hospital personnel and other local volunteers.

Some of the Volunteers assembled at Auckland International Airport before departure

Some of the Volunteers assembled at Auckland International Airport before departure

Tertiary Services in Gynaecology at Lautoka Hospital

This included surgical services, outpatient clinics and interactive teaching. To achieve this and without placing any demands on local staff or resources, whole team of Gynaecological Surgeons (5), Anaesthetists (4), Anaesthetic Technicians (3), Surgical Nurses and Ward Nurses and Physiotherapists along with Administrative Staff to provide logistic support to the team was assembled. We also took our own supply of medications, surgical supplies, anaesthetic drugs etc to Lautoka Hospital. This team only then could provide comprehensive service in gynaecology.


Dr Pillay carried out a major surgery to remove a benign ovarian cyst. It weighed 29kg which was 40% of her weight. The surgery lasted approximately 3 Hours. The patient was not pregnant. The patient recovered well.

Other Activities


The Opening of Two Operating Theatres

Some of the team members who were in Lautoka Hospital participated in the official opening of the recommissioning of the 2 theatres as well as the opening of a new operating theatre which was completed by a joint effort between Family Trusts, Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation and Friends of Fiji Health (NZ) Inc.

The theatres was officially opened by Dr Eloni Tora, Director Hospital Services, in the presence of other dignitaries including Mr Joe Cokanasiga (Minister of Agriculture and Assistant Prime Minister and a proud father of Adi Talei a volunteer team leader for the nurses that travelled with the team), Mr Punja of Punjas Ltd, Mr Dilip Katri of Jacks Fiji Ltd.



Deepak Tahal & Dr Eroni Tora in refurbished theatre






Dr Eloni Tora, Director of Health Services, inspecting the new theatre. On display is one of the 3 anaesthetic machines donated by FOFH.



Signing of the Agreement of Assistance (AOA) between The Ministry of Health, Fiji and FOFH (NZ) Inc. The principal signatories were Dr Eloni Tora and Dr Sunil Pillay with Dr Jemesa Tudravu and Bob Naidu as witnesses for the two respective parties.




Paper presentation

At the request of Specialised Clinical Services Program Organisers, Bob Naidu carried out a presentation to the group at their meeting held between 9th-10th December, 2010 at Tanoa International Hotel. The content was basically to tell them more about FOFH, how it was formed and what we were planning to do.

It was indicated that whilst our approach was based on a low cost budget, funding was a still critical for our effectiveness. The presentation was very well received and the attendees commended our work and our approach.  AUSAID and other donor Organisation, mainly Australians were very interested in what we were doing and were keen for us to approach them with some plan to see if they can assist. Deepak, Bob and Vijaya Naidu attended the meeting for a short period.



Bob Naidu presenting a paper about FOFH to the delegates from the South Pacific Islands who were attending a 2-day conference on Specialized Clinical Services in the Region.





About our Anaesthetists



Anaesthetist Dr James Lai using the recently donated anaesthetic machine to Lautoka Hospital by Friends of Fiji Health during the mission whilst surgeons are busy doing another complex surgery.

The anaesthetic services were provided solely by our friendly Kiwi anaesthetists. Along with the services they not only provided guidance but also collection of various anaesthetic drugs, equipment and consumables. Special acknowledgment to Dr Andrew Warmington for doing an earlier scoping mission and organizing the servicing and setting up donated anaesthetic machines to Lautoka Hospital theatres. They formed an invaluable part of the organisation and mission.


They were:

Dr Andrew Warmington

Dr James Lai

Dr Jack Hill

Dr Dave Chambley





Feedback from Patients

Patient 1

Mrs M, a 66 year old Indian woman, was referred to the FOFH gynaecology clinic at Lautoka Hospital by the FOFH team working at Nadi Hospital. Her daughter-law brought her to the hospital on a wheelchair. She had a long history of back and pelvic pain. She said that it felt like her “inside was falling out”. She was unable to do any work at home and was dependent on others for help.

In the clinic, we had great difficulty in getting her onto the examining table. She was diagnosed as having pelvic organ prolapsed and needed surgery. She was admitted to the gynaecology ward on the same day and proceeded to have a very successful vaginal hysterectomy with anterior and posterior repair on the next day.

The next morning she was feeling much better but was very reluctant to mobilise because in her mind she did not believe that she could. Later on the same day, with a bit of encouragement and support, she was up on her feet. She was discharged to go home two days later and walked from the hospital ward to her transport.

Prior to going home, she thanked all the staff and gave “a thousand blessings” to FOFH team and hoped that we would return to help many other women like her.

Patient 2

Mary, 47-year-old lady with growing abdominal – pelvic mass growing for sometime came in the last hours for help.

Her mass has been growing for some years causing her difficulty with mobility. This growing mass also decreased her appetite. She had lost a lot of weight. Mary felt tired and could not go about doing her daily duties. She became dependent on her family for being taken care of.

Mary recovered fully after a challenging but uncomplicated surgery removing 29 Kilograms of the ovarian mass. She went home 5 days after surgery to her usual normal duties. Mary is thankful to the volunteer team and Lautoka Hospital Staff.

Patients in the ward recovering with smiles on their faces.

The Medical Team

The Medical Team consisted of two Physicians, a Gastroenterologist and two Specialist Nurses. They provided clinical services in RakiRaki, Tavua, Ba, Nadi and Sigatoka. A physician was also at Lautoka hospital to provide care, teaching and much needed respite to local physicians.


Specialist Physician, Dr Ajay Kumar discussing a case with the local health professional at Tavua clinic while Pauline Deo, a volunteer nurses in the background is busy carrying out blood pressure checks.

Gastroenterologist, Dr Dinesh Lal is discussing the outcomes of his examinations with a patient at Tavua clinic.

Female Patients waiting for their turn to be called up for examinations in Tavua Hospital

Temporary shelter was built on the lawn to protect patients from the hot sun who were waiting to be seen by the visiting medical team in Tavua.