Learning in PNG


The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

15 February 2023

Dr Galabadage Jayasinghe’s recent placement in Papua New Guinea was a valuable learning experience.

The Advanced Trainee, who is based at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, was the recipient of the RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation’s NSW Regional Committee Travelling Scholarship. The scholarship supported her travel to Port Moresby General Hospital, to undertake a 6-month clinical fellowship.

“The experience taught me a great deal of respect for the challenges that registrars and consultants have to deal with in developing countries,” Dr Jayasinghe says.

“As a registrar in Australia I am so protected from resource issues; in PNG the registrars are constantly having to work out where the next batch of gloves are going to come from, or whether there is going to be enough IV fluid to get them through the day. You are constantly having to rationalise these issues while doing your day-to-day job.”

And as a result of the lack of skilled personnel at the hospital, Dr Jayasinghe gained valuable experience in paediatric resuscitation, and in caring for unwell mothers. “The O+G registrars and consultants become extremely skilled and have really huge breadth of knowledge and clinal experience because they do everything.”

One of the areas Dr Jayasinghe was exposed to in her time at the hospital was vaginal triplet deliveries. “They are very, very uncommon and unheard of in Australia,” she says. “So, gaining the opportunity to do vaginal triplet deliveries was amazing.”

A love for global health

Dr Jayasinghe, who has also worked in Tanzania and the Solomon Islands as a medical student, credits her father for her love for global health. “My father worked for the UN for more than 20 years and would often be overseas in places like Afghanistan and South Sudan, and he would say one of the greatest things he would see was the impact of medical NGOs were making in these areas,” she says.

“My original inspiration came from him. And having been born in Tanzania and having Sri Lankan heritage, I know that health care is an issue in those countries, and so it was something that I endeavoured, once I was fully qualified, wanting to give back.”

And her advice to colleagues considering volunteering overseas? “Do a lot of research before going ahead with it. For me I found it really beneficial to speak to people who had already done a placement in PNG and I had a lot of conversations with Professor Glen Mola [her supervisor] about what my role was going to be.

“Make sure you think about it from all possible angles and ask the people on the ground in the countries what they need and what is beneficial for them.”

Dr Jayasinghe operating with an enthusiastic team
A healthy set of triplets delivered by normal  vaginal delivery. Many women who have a multiple pregnancy will  only realise once they are delivering. 
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