Bairo Pite Clinic, Dili, East Timor
Bairo Pite Clinic is located near the centre of Dili and is staffed by an American doctor, Dr Dan Murphy, about 45 Timorese staff, and visiting overseas volunteers. The majority of the work at the clinic is seeing outpatients, and Dr Dan sees on average 300 to 400 patients per day. The clinic also has 10 inpatient beds, most commonly for patients with malaria, gastroenteritis or respiratory tract infections. In addition there are 12 beds reserved for TB patients requiring inpatient management, and 4 maternity beds.
Depending on available staff and enthusiasm, the clinic also runs various mobile clinics to remote villages. There is no permanent doctor for this service so this depends on visiting volunteer doctors.
Bairo Pite Clinic has a laboratory which is able to test for malaria and TB. There are no other blood tests available at the clinic and there is no radiology.
There is a small emergency room for wound care and minor procedures such as suturing and abscess drainage. The emergency room is stocked entirely by donated equipment so supplies are variable.
The main Dili hospital is only 10 minutes from Bairo Pite Clinic, and so patients can easily be sent to the hospital for blood tests and radiology. Bairo Pite Clinic also owns an ambulance and a driver to facilitate this process. Patients too sick to be managed at the clinic can also be transferred to the main hospital.
The role of volunteers at Bairo Pite Clinic is entirely flexible and depends very much on the individual volunteer.
Work at the clinic involves ward rounds every morning with Dr Dan and nursing staff, followed by outpatient consultations for the remainder of the day.
Mobile clinics involve traveling out to remote villages, with each village being visited on a weekly basis. There is an ambulance and driver available and medications and other supplies can be taken from the clinic. Nursing staff can sometimes be persuaded to come along and occasionally even a translator, although this can't be relied on.
The clinics are performed either at local health posts, or on various verandahs belonging to nuns or the head of the village. The health posts can serve populations of several thousand, and mobile clinics can involve seeing over 100 patients in a day, with the sickest patients taken back to Dili hospital if required. In addition to treating acute illnesses such as malaria or gastroenteritis, priorities of the mobile clinics include vaccinations, antenatal care, advice on breast feeding and contraception, and where possible providing some teaching to the nuns or nurses.
TB is endemic in East Timor and the mobile clinics are an opportunity to implement or continue TB programs (in co-ordination with the Ministry of Health) in villages that have no other access to health care. Ideally patients are brought back to Dili for diagnosis and commencement of treatment. Local nurses or nuns can be trained to administer directly observed treatment and provide ongoing management, with patients being reviewed weekly at the mobile clinics.
The local language is Tetum, although Indonesian is widely spoken in Dili. Portuguese is also spoken by older Timorese. Very little English is spoken which can make work very difficult, as translators are hard to come by. However Tetum is not a difficult language to learn and a basic understanding of medical words can be learnt fairly quickly.
Accommodation is provided free of charge to Bairo Pite Clinic volunteers by Thrifty Car Rentals, about ten minutes walk from the clinic. Accommodation is comfortable, with shared bathroom, kitchen facilities, and small living area with TV.
Dili has a large ex-patriot population and so has plenty of cafes and restaurants. There are a couple of supermarkets, a travel agent, and one bank. Internet is available at a couple of places although power cuts are frequent. Transport can be difficult so if staying for a while bringing a bike is highly recommended!
East Timor is a beautiful mountainous country with some wonderful places to visit, although without a car travel can be difficult.
- Mount Ramelau (mountain of the resistance) stands at about 3000m, four hours from Dili, and is one of East Timor's top tourist attractions. Camping is possible and accommodation can also be found at the bottom of the mountain.
- Atauro Island is only 30 km from Dili and is an easy weekend escape. The ferry ride takes a couple of hours, and there is an eco-tourist resort on the island.
- East Timor also has some of the best diving in the world, which can be organized through several centres in Dili. Dive Courses are available.
Dr Dan Murphy
BPC Clinic Director
c/o PO Box 259
Dili, East Timor
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