PIMA Volunteer Surgeon Works to Help Infrastructure

Good hearted general surgeon Dr. Larry Falk, from Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Ukiah, California, has added new dimensions to our medical team visits to the isolated nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific by concentrating on improving infrastructure at the small hospital on Christmas Island, as well as being available for emergency surgeries.

“Dr. Falk has volunteered his services to Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. (PIMA) in Kiribati more times than any other physician,” said Carlton Smith, PIMA president, “and continues to be willing to help these good people in any way he can.”

In his most recent visit in July, Dr. Falk took with him two associates to help identify, repair and maintain vital equipment at the small hospital on Christmas Island (Kiritimati) by working with the bio-medical technician there. “This is a daunting task in a remote and harsh physical environment, but vital to the successful diagnosis and treatment of islanders there,” Dr. Falk said.

“It takes more than just medical personnel to make it happen,” he said. Here is Dr. Falk’s description of his most recent trip. He will be returning to Kiritimati in late November and December.

By Dr. Larry Falk, MD

With the support of the Kiribati Ministry of Health, Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. and our hospital, Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Ukiah, California, a PIMA team of general surgeon Dr. Larry Falk, chief of biotechnology Jack Smiley and chief computer systems engineer John Reilly, spent a productive week working with the staff at the small, isolated Ronton Hospital on Christmas Island in Kiribati.

While we were there to offer general surgery support, a main focus was to partner with the new local biotechnician to review every piece of vital equipment and every computer to develop repair and maintenance procedures.

This is a daunting task in a remote and harsh physical environment such as exists on this beautiful coral atoll.

Jack and the local biomed tech, Taaren, worked on the dental x-ray machine, the operating room respirator, the new ultrasound machine, the wiring in the operating room, the operating room light, the OR sterilizers, lab machines and many other instruments.

Most importantly, the two developed a close personal and professional relationship, which is certain to pay off in the future in the form of advice, communication and mutual assistance.

John went through each computer in the hospital and cleaned them of malware and virus, significantly improving the performance of each of them. Through Ukiah Valley Medical Center, he provided the medical officer in charge, Dr. Teraira Bangao, with an up-dated laptop and desktop computer which he uses constantly as he administers the affairs of the Ronton Hospital in the Line Islands.

John has plans to send more updated laptops in the future for the use of key personnel and for use of PIMA teams in the future.

John also analyzed the connectivity capabilities on the island. The data transmission parameters were defined and optimized.

John will be working with other PIMA teams to facilitate transmission of x-rays, patient photographs and test results, such as echocardiogram reports. He will be making suggestions on how to optimize this all-important aspect of hospital operations.

With improved communication capability, it may be possible in the future to take advantage of telemedicine options through PIMA medical consultants, extending the range of services available to the people of Christmas Island.

Overall, it evolved into an extremely productive week of hard work and relationship building, with prospects for future collaboration that will benefit the good people of Kiribati.