24 May Meet the Doctor: Michael and Christine Shanahan share their experiences
Earlier this year, staff and patients at the clinic were able to benefit from the expertise of Michael and Christine Shanahan.
Dr Michael Shanahan’s resume includes 25 years experience as a Consultant Physician at Manly District Hospital, 8 years in clinical cardiology at the St Vincents Clinic in Sydney and 6 years as a Physician/Cardiologist at Alice Springs Hospital, Central Australia.
Christine Shanahan also brought a wealth of experience. She is a Registered Nurse who for the last 10 years has been in palliative care. Prior, she held clinical nursing roles in Mona Vale Hospital, Alice Springs, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie.
Both Christine and Michael have also undertaken Médecins Sans Frontières missions in Turkmenistan and Darfur.
They have been married for 48 years, have 3 children, 8 grandchildren and recently treated patients and mentored staff at our clinic in Dili. We asked them to share their experiences there.
How did you come to volunteer your services at the Order of Malta clinic?
We were doing clinics with Father Bong at the Jesuit Mission in Railaco, in the mountains 40km outside Dili in Timor-Leste. He suggested we meet Lanie Cabanes who had set up his clinics 10 years earlier and had now been appointed to set up the Malta Clinic in Dili She invited us to come inspect the new clinic and spend time there working. It was an opportunity for us to learn more about medical facilities in Dili.
What were your first impressions of the Order’s Clinic?
A strong first impression was how clean and organised the clinic was; a large area for patient triage and documentation, excellent working space for the doctors, and a good level of equipment. There were some pathology services available on-site, but most was referred elsewhere. An ultrasound machine was available but none of the on-site staff were yet trained in diagnostic use. The patient records were excellent.
You treated patients during your visits. Were there any cases that stood out to you?
We saw patients with hypertension and acute respiratory infection, as well as those coping with pulmonary damage from extensive tuberculosis in the past.
What did your mentoring of the staff involve?
The clinic doctors came to me to review chest X-rays, and asked me (Michael) to clinically assess patients that were a diagnostic or management challenge. It was exciting to stand beside the patient with the young doctor and methodically work through the clinical history and physical examination to reach a diagnosis and management plan.
While in the Malta Clinic I also gave tutorials to the 5 doctors as a group.
Was there anything in particular that surprised you about Timor-Leste and its health services?
Apart from the Malta Clinic, we can only speak with experience of the health service in the Railaco district. There are new, large, government health clinic buildings in larger villages but despite the impressive appearance the functional situation is one of great shortage of medication and the local people are aware of these deficiencies.
In your opinion, what is the most significant health issue facing the people of Timor-Leste?
Lack of financial, logistic and clinical support for government health clinics outside Dili.
What impact has working at the Order of Malta Clinic had on you personally?
Working at the Order of Malta Clinic allowed us to see that even in a poor nation like Timor Leste it is possible to deliver a first world standard of care, given planning, finance, staff and equipment. This was refreshing after doing clinics in the hill villages around Railaco.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the clinic?
The clinic may be able to be open for longer hours by staggering the shifts for the doctors, keeping the clinic working at lunch-time, and by employing 2 more doctors.
A doctor trained in radiology/ultrasound would be needed to make best use of the ultrasound machine and the Clinic pharmacy may need to be enhanced after review of medication needs from the first 6 months of Clinic function shows which drugs were most needed.
Visit our Volunteering page if you think you can help our clinic. Alternatively, make a Donation to assist us continue our work.