A GENERAL surgical team from New Zealand is in Lautoka to perform 30 major operations and provide training in the latest techniques.
The visit by Friends of Fiji Health is one of many undertaken by doctors and medical personnel under the FOFH program, set up 18 months ago as a charitable trust.
Seven Fijian doctors and businessmen who have immigrated to New Zealand founded the charity as a means of giving something back to their homeland.
On Monday, the team carried out the first local laparascopic operation to remove gallstones (cholecystectomy), watched by a number of local surgeons and medical students.
Team leader Dr Rishi Ram, who has worked at Lautoka Hospital early in his career along with Dr Avinesh Kumar, said FOFH's main aim was to send teams of specialists to Fiji to provide medical treatment for the neediest of local people.
"We well understand some of the challenges that local staff face.
"It's great to be able to give something back, which also gives us great satisfaction in being able to do so," Dr Ram said.
Before they depart next Monday the specialists hope to train young surgeons.
"We have experience in the latest laparascopic (keyhole) surgery that we can pass on to our Fijiian colleagues. We are committed to helping them upskill, to achieve the highest possible standards of clinical excellence and patient safety," Dr Ram said.
The eight-person team includes two general surgeons — team leader, Dr Ram and Dr Kumar — anaesthetist Dr Reta McLeod, and specialist theatre nurses Jo Dunstan and Tara Mudgway.
The surgeons' wives — Dr Amrita Kumar and Dr Ranjani Ram, both general practitioners — are working with local doctors in general practice, and also have a training role.