Hospital equipment usually tossed out and left to languish in landfill will be put to good use in an impoverished Timor Leste community, thanks to an initiative.
The idea will also help fortify Goulburn's Friendship Agreement with Quelicai in Timor Leste, says Mayor Bob Kirk.
But the council, which is acting as lead agency, also wants the community on board to support a fundraiser.
On Friday, Cr Kirk and Deputy Mayor Peter Walker met with the Timor Leste Ambassador's wife, Ana Guterres, the Embassy's first secretary, Samuel Soares, MedEarth representatives and international director of Rotary's Medical Aid for Oceania and Worldwide program, Barry Barford.
Also there were Maggie and Darryl Patterson, the owners of the former Saint Joseph's Orphanage, who first suggested the Friendship Agreement to the council.
The Pattersons visited Quelicai Hospital last October soon after the Friendship Agreement was struck. Quelicai itself is an inland city of about 25,000 people in the hill country.
"Quelicai Friendship representatives realised that there was a clear and significant need for medical resources. The hospital had no running water and no soap. Equipment, including the autoclave, was broken," Mrs Patterson said.
"Where could medical resources be found and at what cost? That's where MedEarth comes in."
The Australian environmental charity recovers used, quality hospital equipment for redistribution to developing nations.
"In our world, illness is universal but access to care is limited. That's what we're trying to make inroads into," co-founder Laura Taitz explained on Friday.
MedEarth is based on a US charity, Med Wish, and is just over five years old. Since its formation, it has saved over 1000 cubic metres of hospital equipment from going to landfill and filled containers with 65 tonnes of medical items for distribution to 12 countries. Donors come from both the public and private sector.
Whereas a great deal of hospital equipment in Australia only has a five or six-year life span, in East Timor and many other countries MedEarth helps, it is re-purposed and can save countless lives.
"In Goulburn and Australia we have very good hospital equipment and a high level of medical care and we can take it for granted," Cr Kirk said.
"But over there, care may mean lying on a bare floor in a hospital and hoping you get treated. For them, even having a hospital bed is a wonderful thing."
The Pattersons' contact with MedEarth was timely. The organisation had just been offered equipment from Manly and Mona Vale Hospitals, which were closing.
The district hospital at nearby Baucau, which services Quelicai, has a wish list of equipment, including beds, x-ray equipment and an ultra-sound machine.
Cr Kirk said Mr Barford, who had vast experience in international trade and shipping, had donated his expertise in his capacity as a Rotarian. He could arrange containers and shipment at a reduced cost through his contacts.
The estimated cost to load and transport the equipment is $5000.
The council wants to organise a community fundraiser to support the plan. Details are yet to be finalised. Friday's meeting was a preliminary step, uniting all players.
"If we can't raise that through an afternoon tea or whatever, I'd be very surprised," Cr Kirk said.
"That cost will be covered on our ear, in my opinion, because the community will respond."
The Mayor said Australia had strong connections with Timor Leste. During World War Two, its population had hidden Australian soldiers from invading Japanese troops. Thousands later paid the price with their lives for doing so.
"We won't allow that to be forgotten," Cr Kirk said.
"But now they are a nation independent from Indonesia and through its shared history they are trying to establish links with Australia."
Timor Leste also has Friendship Agreements with several other Australian cities. The Ambassador, Abel Guterres, is good friends with the Pattersons. He has also visited Goulburn many times.
Cr Kirk said Goulburn Mulwaree was keen to foster cultural and educational connections with Quelicai through visiting school and community delegations.
"If trade follows, that's a wonderful outcome," he said.
"I'm just very pleased Goulburn can be supportive of this initiative, for which Maggie and Darryl have put in a lot of work," he said.
For more information, contact Maggie and Darryl Patterson on 0403 64 9553.
About Timor Leste
- One in 20 children have heart failure due to rheumatic fever (one child in every class room). This is completely preventable, given the right diagnostic equipment.
- Up to 50 per cent of children in regional areas are adversely affected by malnutrition.
The wish list
- Full x-ray equipment
- 1 ultrasound machine
- 2 birthing beds
- 1 dialysis machine
- 1 defibrillator
- 1 echo machine
- 1 ECG
- 5 bed suites
- IV poles
- Dressing trolleys
- Baby scales
- Portable laboratory
- Suction machine
- Dressing packs stethoscopes
- BP sphygmometers
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