Hutt Valley DHB Boss Sees Volunteers’ “Unique Contribution” In South Pacific

24 August 2012

Army nurse, Lieutenant Rebekka Grangard, briefs senior executives from nine NZ organisations who visited the tent hospital set up by the NZ Defence Force contingent on the grounds of a Samoan high school.

Hutt Valley District Health Board chief executive Graham Dyer said volunteers and New Zealand Defence Force reservists from New Zealand hospitals demonstrated their important contribution to emergency response operations during the New Zealand Defence Force’s recent humanitarian mission in Samoa.

"It was an opportunity to observe the capabilities of the NZ Defence Force in undertaking humanitarian work," Mr Dyer said of his five-day visit to the 100-strong Defence Force contingent who took part in the humanitarian aid and disaster response (HADR) exercise.

"There are opportunities to work smarter between our organisations in order to better utilise resources that we have to support a whole-of-country approach and wider Pacific stability," he added.

Mr Dyer was among a dozen senior executives from nine NZ organisations, including three District Health Boards, who saw first-hand the "real and unique contribution" of volunteers and reservists who formed part of the contingent in Samoa.

A dozen healthcare professionals from NZ hospitals and a reservist surgeon and an anaesthetist from Capital and Coast District Health Board took part in Exercise Tropic Twilight, which the NZ Defence Force conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 28 July to 19 August.

"The exercise aimed to test the military’s ability to respond at short notice in the event of a natural disaster in the Pacific," Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) William Twiss said.

The training scenario saw the Army’s Forward Surgical Team (FST) being deployed to Samoa to help local authorities clear a backlog of minor surgeries as the Pacific island-nation recovers from the wrath of a fictional cyclone, explained LTCOL Twiss.

The FST, which was comprised of about 30 Army doctors, nurses, medical scientists, reservist surgeons and anaesthetists and a dozen healthcare volunteers, performed at least 61 minor surgeries at the tent hospital set up by the contingent on the grounds of a Samoan high school. They also ran outreach clinics in remote villages in the main island of ‘Upolu and the neighbouring Savai’i island, focusing on oral health, maternal health and child immunisations.

Brigadier Sean Trengrove, Director General of the NZ Defence Force’s Reserve Forces and Youth Development, said the Defence Force arranged the employers’ visit from 8-12 August to demonstrate the capability of the FST and other units in the NZ Defence Force’s Health Service Support System to carry out HADR in a challenging environment.

"The employers saw the volunteers and the reservist members of the FST at work in outreach clinics and at the tent hospital and were very impressed with what they saw," according to Brig Trengrove.

"They now have a greater understanding of the contribution reservists make in support of the NZ Defence Force. Like their employees, they are keen to support the NZ Defence Force in developing systems that make it easier for both reservists and volunteers to engage."

The Territorial Force or the Army Reserve is the part-time component of the NZ Army, with the mission to provide trained individuals, volunteers and formed groups of soldiers for overseas operations. It is one of the arms that the government may call upon to assist in case of a civil emergency.


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This page was last reviewed on 24 August 2012.