With approval from the Kiribati Ministry of Health, we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid have launched a program to establish a telemedicine program for Christmas Island in the Central Pacific.
The program, under direction of our co-medical director, Dr. Lydia Lam, MD, FACS, will link medical personnel on the small Christmas Island hospital with specialist physicians in the U.S., who will serve as consultants free of charge whenever needed.
“With expanded and more reliable internet service on the island, we can now use Skype for audio and video connections,” Dr. Lam said. As initially envisioned, medical personnel on the isolated island in Kiribati will contact her when needed and she will then put them in touch immediately with the appropriate specialist, drawn from a list of willing volunteer doctors here in the U.S.
“Good web cameras will enable the doctor on Christmas Island to show patients and their conditions more clearly, and can even be used in the pre-op area or operating room during surgery,” Dr. Lam said.
“This is a great initiative. We really need that service,” says Dr. Teraira Bangao, Kiribati Ministry of Health medical officer in charge on Christmas Island.
“On the U.S. side, Dr. Lam and her PIMA co-medical director, Dr. Shalini Sharma, are putting together a comprehensive list of available medical specialists to help with any emergency situation that might arise on Christmas Island,” says PIMA president, Carlton Smith.
“Right now, this is one of the most important immediate health initiatives we can undertake for the good people of Kiribati, given their critical shortage of doctors and extremely limited resources,” Carlton said.
Dr. Lam, who will serve as the program’s ‘gatekeeper,’ is assistant professor of clinical surgery and emergency medicine and associate program director for trauma and critical care at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine at the Los Angeles County, University of Southern California Medical Center.