From the President: Two Islands Two Conferences

From the President: Two Islands Two Conferences

In May I was privileged to visit two different island nations both renowned for their hospitality – Sri Lanka and Fiji. Interestingly, both comprise many islands - over 100 for Sri Lanka and over 300 for the Fiji archipelago.

Photo: WONCA President Karen Flegg (left) and President elect Viviana Martinez- Bianchi in our beautiful garlands in Sri Lanka.

My message at both conferences was the same and worth repeating here. We need to stem the costs of health care in all of our countries. We need to increase investment in PHC services. To do this we must move money from secondary and tertiary care to Primary Health Care. Family medicine is an essential component of Primary Health Care.

Ayubowan - WONCA South Asia comes to Sri Lanka for a 50th Conference

My first region conference as WONCA President. What a spectacular event it was particularly as the College of GPs of Sri Lanka (the host organisation) was celebrating its 50th or golden anniversary as well as hosting the WONCA South Asia region conference. And indeed it was a golden occasion.

Photo: CGPSL president Dr D Mathew WONCA South Asia region president Dr K Sri Ranjan and WONCA President A/Prof Karen Flegg at the Inauguration ceremony.

The high point for me was the distinction of being made an Honorary Fellow of the College – a first for me to receive an Honorary Fellowship. I was in good company as others who received this distinction were: Dr Anna Stavdal our past president and Dr Palitha Mahipala (Secretary of the MOH) Dr Deepthi Attygalla. Other WONCA luminaries received the life-time achievement award: Dr Garth Manning Prof Val Wass Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardene Dr Arulraj.

Congratulations to Dr Sri Ranjan - secretary general of this conference and his team in particular: the HOC co-chairs Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardene and Prof Antoinette Perera: scientific committee chair Prof Shyamalee Samaranayaka; and social committee chair Dr Pushpa Weerasinghe. A wonderful team who did a great job. I was able to present them all with a certificate of appreciation from WONCA.

(from l to r) Drs Pushpa, Shyamalee, WONCA president, Drs Preethi, Sri Ranjan and Mathew with their WONCA certificates.

Photo: (from l to r) Drs Pushpa, Shyamalee, WONCA president, Drs Preethi, Sri Ranjan and Mathew with their WONCA certificates.

The Spice Route Movement for Young Doctors held a preconference where I was able to present Dr Ratnam Gobith with a WONCA 50-year medal in recognition of the work he did behind the scenes for the Spice Route event and main conference. Our CEO Harris Lygidakis as a previous Young Doctors’ Movement leader was one of the speakers for the event.

Photo: (Pictured l to r) are Drs Kinley Bhuti (Bhutan), Cheryl Chan (Hong Kong), Sankha Randenikumara (Sri Lanka), Harris Lygidakis (WONCA CEO), Karen Flegg (WONCA President), Ratnam Gobith at the YDM preconference.

My thanks to Dr Sri Ranjan for his warm welcome to all the WONCA Executive as we met after the conference. See separate article.

The most unusual and a very special occurrence at the conference was the issuing of commemorative stamp to celebrate the conference and golden jubilee celebration of CGPSL. I was lucky to be given a first day cover!

Bula - Fiji College of GPs 30th Conference

At the end of May I was delighted to see old friends from the Asia Pacific region at the Fiji College of GPs 30th conference. For me just being there and able to be present and support my Fijian friends was a great gift. It was also wonderful to be able to inform our Fijian colleagues about the work of our WONCA Working Parties and Special Interest groups about WONCA Awards and of course about coming WONCA conferences.
Fiji College President Dr Rajesh Maharaj is pictured with other international guests from Australia and New Zealand.

Photo: Fiji College President Dr Rajesh Maharaj is pictured with other international guests from Australia and New Zealand.

I also caught up with two very long serving WONCA representatives from Fiji Drs Ram Raju and Keshwan Nadan.

Photo: Dr Nicole Higgins (RACGP president) myself Dr Samantha Murton (RNZCGP president) Dr Maharaj and Dr Sarah Chalmers (ACRRM past president) and Dr Kerryn Lum (RNZCGP Censor-in-chief).

It was an excellent and thought-provoking conference. A special moment was the launch of the revived journal of the FCGP now called Apotheosis. Both the conference and the journal focus on issues of strong concern for Fiji and many other nations – including NCDs. WONCA released a statement on NCDs at the World Health Assembly at the same as we were discussing them in Fiji. Link to WONCA Statement

A Remote Practice Visit in Sri Lanka

One of the joys for me of visiting colleagues in other countries is to see them in their work environment. While in Sri Lanka I visited Dr Ranjith Dissonayake (second from left in photo) and his team including Dr Ammar Jawfer and nurses Piyumi and Thilakshi at the remote primary care Divisional Hospital Katugahahena. The team were eager to show me their achievements. I was impressed by the high level of organisation and philosophy of “Health for All”.

Photo: The team in the ward area.

As a doctor who is accustomed to working in remote clinics which must stock the medication that we give to patients I was most impressed by the medication storage and monitoring systems - strategies to ensure as much as possible that medications did not run out that approaching expiry dates were noticed. Systems and processes ensured that basic health observations were done (weight BP etc) for outpatients and that the emergency area was one we could all walk into and be able to find guides and equipment (even foreigners!). Not to mention an app that could map the clinic’s families in the local district and their medical conditions – this is an app that lots of us who do remote or even rural work could use.

Photo: Artwork done by the community decorates the facility.

My visit was topped off with a lecture facilitated by Dr Ranjith’s son Disala (who works as an interpreter) to showpiece the facility’s development over many years from basic beginnings to now and finally a lovely spread of local fruits as a refreshment.

In summary, a fine example of “maximum care with minimum resources”.

Bohoma sthuthiy Sri Lanka

Assoc Prof Karen Flegg
WONCA President