PMA deploys Orthopaedic Surgeon to Tonga to support local team
Updates / News, 13 Mar 24
The Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) has deployed Whanganui-based orthopaedic surgeon, Dr John van Dalen, to Vaiola Hospital in Tonga as part of the New Zealand Medical Treatment Scheme (NZMTS), which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). This visit contributes to the program's goal of maximising opportunities for capability building, as well as strengthening local health services in six Pacific countries.

Dr van Dalen, who has a longstanding history with the Ministry of Health in Tonga, is carrying out consultations and surgical work. 

“The visit to Tonga is similar to my previous visits to the country, where local doctors assist me as I assess about thirty-five patients.  

"During this clinic, we determine patients who will benefit from surgery. These cases are then booked for surgery that I undertake over the course of the week. 

"I also consult patients in theatre, so I generally assess about fifty patients per visit.”  

Dr van Dalen has conducted regular visits to Tonga since 2018, and contributed to the establishment of Vaiola Hospital’s Orthopaedic Surgical Trauma Project, with the support of Rotary International and MFAT. 

He speaks on the challenges, as well as opportunities, within Tonga’s health sector. 

“With limited resources, the surgical team in Tonga are understandably focused on general surgery, thus the orthopaedic trauma service has been limited in the past. The focus is on improving this service to a high level of best practice.  

“The plan is to train up local surgeons to undertake moderately complex fracture fixation, a surgical procedure that we aim to include as standard practice. 

"Currently we are upskilling Dr Tevita Tu'ungafasi, a general surgery registrar, who is working at the Waikato Hospital this year, and then will move to Whanganui Hospital the following year.”