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NZ Defence Force Medical Team in Banda Aceh

7 February 2005

Defence Force Medical Team in Banda Aceh - Hard Work but Rewarding

Captain Charmaine Tate is one of the NZ Defence Force doctors working alongside Australian and Indonesian staff at the ANZAC Field Hospital's Infectious Ward in Banda Aceh. Here she examines Murdiana, an Acehnese woman recovering from aspiratory pneumonia.

The New Zealand Defence Force medical team in tsunami-devastated Banda Aceh expect a few tears to flow when they leave the Anzac Clinic they helped establish four weeks ago.

"We've lost a few, but we've saved and helped a lot more. We've got to know some of our patients really well. They're resiliant and positive, despite their horrific injuries," says Captain Charmaine Tate, one of the Kiwi team's two doctors.

The 30-strong team, which includes doctors, nurses, medics, communicators, drivers and other support staff, leave Banda Aceh for home on Saturday, when New Zealand's second medical team arrives to replace them.

The team spent its first three days removing thick mud and debris from throughout the hospital , which is three kilometres from the coastline, before it could begin treating patients. Since then, working alongside their Australian counterparts, they have dealt with conditions ranging from lower limb amputations and broken bones, to severe respiratory complaints and infectious diseases such as tetanus. Seven babies have been delivered since the team arrived.

Army nurse Captain Georgina Parata-Turvey, who returned from a Defence mission in Afghanistan shortly before leaving for Banda Aceh, established the team's surgical ward. She and her medics, helped by a few local nurses, have 15 patients and their family members in what was originally an eight-bed ward. She has made friends with a couple of her longer-term patients, including Jamahlia, who lost four of her children in the tsunami, and Haylina, who watched as her husband and three children were swept to their deaths. She had her leg amputated at the thigh after sustaining severe injuries.

"Jamahlia is one gutsy woman," says Captain Parata-Turvey. "She's got a ready smile despite everything. Her son is looking after her, but I wonder what the future holds for them."

The NZDF senior national officer, Lieutenant Colonel Evan Williams says he is proud of the work his team has done. "They have worked extremely hard in what have at times been atrocious conditions. All the New Zealanders, including the RNZAF team which transported us and our equipment here, have made a valuable contribution to the relief effort, and I'm sure this will continue with our second medical team."


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