Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the key role of the International Development Program? 
What are the tertiary health services covered? 
What kind of involvement is expected from those interested in participating in the projects? 
What qualifications are required to participate in the projects? 
How are the projects funded? 
In which countries do the projects operate? 
Are there security issues? 
How do I apply to participate in project activities? 

 What is the key role of the International Development Program?

The RACS International Development Program is involved in a wide range of initiatives to deliver tertiary health services and develop surgical capacity in Asia and the Pacific. Since 1994, the program has worked with the Australian Government's overseas aid program to deliver specialist surgical services and training to Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

What are the tertiary health services covered?

The types of tertiary health services delivered largely depends on the needs identified in each country. At the beginning of each project, a scoping visit is undertaken by a surgeon from the College, who makes a recommendation to the funding agency and to the recipient government of the medical needs in-country and what procedures can be undertaken safely given the local facilities, both in terms of physical facilities at the hospital and the available post operative care.

Across the current projects, the specialties are:

  • Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Gynaecology
  • Oral Maxillofacial
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopaedics
  • Paediatric Surgery
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Urology
  • Radiology.

In the Pacific Island Countries, diabetes management and psychiatry are included.

What kind of involvement is expected from those interested in participating in the projects?

Short-term specialist visits

Short-term specialist visits are of 1 to 2 weeks' duration and cover the range of specialities listed above.

Team composition and size vary across visits and are largely determined by the type of visit and requirements of the ministries of health in each country.

Generally teams include surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre nurses, who volunteer their time and skills to deliver much needed surgical care in the host country. In addition, the visiting specialist teams play a large role in building local surgical capacity by mentoring surgical trainees and other local medical personnel through on the job training.

All visiting teams are self-sufficient in that the projects provide them with equipment and medical supplies to be used for treating patients and training medical staff in-country.

Long-term medical specialists

In some countries, in addition to the short-term specialist visits, there is a need to provide medical specialist(s) for the local hospital to ensure a 24-hour emergency service is available.

For example in Timor Leste, the program was requested to provide full-time general surgery, anaesthetic and perioperative nursing support services at the National Hospital in Dili. Occasionally, there are similar requests from Nauru and from the Solomon Islands.

What qualifications are required to participate in the projects?

Project participants are medical personnel who are qualified to practice in Australia and New Zealand. Each project has a specialty coordinator (by specialisation) and a project director who make the assessment of the appropriate qualification and suitability of the project participant(s).

How are the projects funded?

In most projects, the major source of funds is the Australian Government through its overseas aid program. The Australian Government's overseas aid program provides funds over a specified period of time.

On a case by case basis, the College is able to tap other funding sources or donor organisations to supplement Australian Government funds. For example, in Papua New Guinea, while the Australian Government provides the major source of assistance, the College solicits donations from the private sector for medical supplies to assist the local hospitals.

Projects funds are used to cover medical disposables, economy class airfares, accommodation in-country, per diems and reasonable travel-related expenses of visiting specialist teams. All team members participate as volunteers. In the case of the long-term positions, project funds are used to cover economy class airfares and reasonable consultancy fees.

The RACS International Development Program welcomes donations to extend the range of aid activities undertaken in the Asia Pacific region.

In which countries do the projects operate?

The College has 3 current projects involving tertiary health services:

  • Papua New Guinea Project - The specialist teams visit the capital, Port Moresby and other regional hospitals around the country.
  • Pacific Islands Project (PIP) - The specialist teams visit the main capital and some outer islands in 10 Pacific Islands countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
  • Timor Leste Project (ATLASS) - The full-time surgeon and anaesthetist are based at Dili National Hospital and conduct outreach visits to the major regional hospitals as required. The specialist teams visit the capital, Dili, as well as the referral hospitals in Baucau, Maliana, Oecussi and Suai.

Are there security issues?

In-country project participants can liaise directly with the AusAID Post located in the Australian High Commission in the event of a security incident. The College also has an emergency evacuation plan in place for all projects and travel advice is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website.

How do I apply to participate in project activities?

If you are interested in volunteering with any of the College's International Development Programs, please send an email to international.projects@surgeons.org