Wailagi Sub Health Centre sits on the mountainous shores of Goodenough Island in Milne Bay. The bustling centre serves the village of Wailagi and its surrounding areas, but its location offers a unique set of challenges, particularly for laboratory services. During the MV YWAM PNG’s visit to Wailagi, the ship’s laboratory staff had the opportunity to collaborate with the centre’s personnel on tuberculosis (TB) testing.
The centre sees high numbers of TB, but in order for it to be tested and treated, samples have to be sent to a laboratory in Alotau. Getting the samples to the mainland can be problematic: “it takes sometimes months — we have communication problems, transport difficulties, and…we’ve been having very rough seas,” said Wailagi’s Nursing Officer, Cindy Feluwa.
That is where the ship’s laboratory came in. The sub health centre had been waiting for Alotau’s results for follow-up TB tests, but it was unclear when the results would make it back to Wailagi.
When the medical and training ship arrived in Wailagi’s waters, Ms Feluwa decided to recollect the samples and send them to the ship’s onboard laboratory. “We got our results the same day we sent the samples in,” said Ms Feluwa, “having YWAM here is…very helpful in many areas.”
One of the beneficiaries of the speedy testing was an eight-year-old boy, Isaac*, from a nearby village. “He was identified, tested, and confirmed on Monday,” said Tabitha Colwell, the ship’s laboratory manager, “and by that evening he was receiving treatment for TB.” While his TB was quite advanced, he is now expected to make a full recovery.
The ship’s laboratory staff also offered the health centre further training on lab forms, heat fixing, and staining, which are all critical steps in TB testing.
Additionally, the primary healthcare, optometry, ophthalmology, dentistry, and community engagement teams worked with the centre to offer further training and services. “I’m thankful for YWAM coming here, partnering with us, and for the in-service sessions they had,” said Ms Feluwa.
As the ship set sail for other villages on Goodenough, it was their hope that their time at the sub health centre was restorative for the hardworking Wailagi staff.
Featured photo: YWAM Medical Ships lab workers with Wailagi sub health centre staff.