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Transforming healthcare in East Timor

Transforming healthcare in East Timor
Photo: Transforming healthcare in East Timor
Over seven years, St John of God Health Care has helped develop significant improvements in health provisions for the East Timorese and this commitment is continuing to expand.

Having identified only the most basic forms of diagnostics operating in the country, St John of God Health Care embarked on a National Pathology Development Program in 2004. This program, operated in partnership with East Timor’s Ministry of Health, has dramatically improved the standards of pathology practice and equipment, ensuring much more reliable diagnosis of infections and diseases.

Successes achieved by the pathology program in capital city, Dili, and regional centres, encouraged the Ministry of Health to seek further support from St John of God Health Care to assist in the development of nursing.

Our first team of nurses was deployed to Dili in June 2010 with the aim of building capacity and capability amongst Timorese nurses. Ultimately, the goal of the National Nursing Development Program is to improve nursing standards and thus patient outcomes.
The highly dedicated team of five nurses deployed to Dili has overcome some testing challenges to establish a position of respect amongst the local nursing community and St John of God Health Care is now ready to double the size of the nursing team in Timor to enable a strategic focus in areas of high mortality including paediatrics, ICU and emergency.

Anthea Ramos, International Health Manager for St John of God Health Care said: “Expanding our nursing team in East Timor will enable us to build on the solid foundations laid by the initial team deployed to Dili. This will considerably expand our ability to deliver education and training in areas such as medication management and infection control.

“The central theme for our National Nursing Development Program is to enable Timorese nurses to develop their skills and procedures in order to deliver better health outcomes for the people of East Timor,” Ms Ramos explained. “We are not there to do their jobs for them but to help the Timorese nurses be better at the jobs they do.

Nursing Program Manager, Tim Vanderwal, added: “The National Nursing Development Program is being implemented in a highly challenging environment, and our nurses need to be tenacious in the face of various challenges. The program provides a unique opportunity to combine clinical work, which has a direct impact on patient outcomes, with the design and delivery of policy, training, and education, building sustainable improvements in local capacity.

“By spending significant time working alongside local nurses, our specialist nurses have built solid foundations in terms of relationships and situational knowledge in three very different areas of the hospital in Dili. We are now planning and implementing interventions which target prioritised issues.

“It is very pleasing to see that some significant improvements in nursing practice are already occurring and we are confident this program can make a substantial positive impact on the professionalism and job satisfaction of the nurses of East Timor, and on the health and well-being of the population they serve.”

St John of God Health Care’s ongoing commitment to East Timor also includes further growth of the National Pathology Development Program, building technical competencies and skills of the scientific staff, and advancing community health programs to educate volunteer staff to be able to perform various primary health functions.

These programs operated in East Timor are a key component of St John of God Health Care’s Social Outreach and Advocacy services, which reach out to people experiencing disadvantage in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region to improve health and wellbeing. More information is available at


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