08 Mar MEET THE DOCTOR: Dr Frances Booth AM
Member of the Order in Australia and Ophthalmologist (eye specialist), Dr Frances Booth recently visited the Order of Malta’s Clinic in Dili and provided training to our staff.
Dr Booth has extensive knowledge of providing first world healthcare in a third world country. For over twenty years she has been an active force in support of surgical teamwork with appropriate equipment and education in Ophthalmology in Papua New Guinea – an initiative that has witnessed remarkable improvements in the services and expertise of Melanesian practitioners. We asked her to share some insight into her visit to our clinic in Timor-Leste.
How did you come to volunteer your services at the Order of Malta clinic? I wanted to be present at the opening of the new Clinic and there were five new doctors who were probably not used to treating eye problems, so it was easy to combine the activities.
What were your first impressions of the Order’s Clinic? It is a very fine clinic, well designed and large enough to cope with the expected influx of patients.
What did the training you provide involve? I spent an hour or two, outlining the anatomy of the eye, some basic presenting diseases and problems, and drugs – antibiotics and others – likely to be required.
Was there anything in particular that surprised you about Timor-Leste and its health services? I’m afraid their problems are typical of developing countries – poor or non-existent facilities, lack of trained staff in the presence of a great desire to learn, malnutrition, lack of access to drugs etc. This contrasts obscenely with what Australia’s Health service is like and what Australians expect and take for granted. The Order’s Clinic is a remarkable facility, even without comparing it to anything previously available.
In your opinion, what is the most significant health issue facing the people of Timor-Leste? My understanding is that along with general medical problems, there are levels of childhood malnutrition, TB, malaria and leprosy which are not seen elsewhere.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the clinic? Education is the key to most things. The long term aim is for the support of adequate numbers of suitably qualified staff – eventually supplied by the Timorese themselves. Funding is another issue.