Medical Patrols in Papua New Guinea

Medical Patrols in Papua New Guinea

Two German medical students recently spent their semester break volunteering at the Kompiam Hospital, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Magdalena (Leni) Bonleitner recalls their experiences of rural clinics and flying with MAF.

Story by Magdalena (Leni) Bonleitner. Photos by Clara Geerling

A university break with a difference

As medical students, we have to do internships during the semester breaks, so we (Leni and Clara) thought to ourselves: Why not combine it with a little adventure?! Our idea: one month internship in the highlands of PNG!

Leni in front of the medical patrol aircraft

The Kompiam District Hospital, which could use any available support, welcomed us with open arms.

The Australian doctor, David Mills, has been there for 20 years and has established a lot during this time - a hospital in the middle of the jungle, offering inpatient care for about 50 patients and an additional two hours of consultations for outpatients with minor ailments on two afternoons per week.

Dr David Mills with patients in Kompiam Hospital

Despite their suffering and pain, the sick often walk for hours from the surrounding villages to Kompiam, to the 'tall white doctor', with the hope of alleviating their symptoms.

What about those even more remote?

Clara and LeniThanks to MAF, even some of the tiny and remote villages in the highlands have access to medical care. Through cooperation with MAF, medical staff from the Kompiam Hospital, as well as medicines and equipment, regularly reach these jungle regions with medical patrols.

During our stay, we experienced two of these 'patrols' for two days each.

The Indian MAF pilot Satish picked us and our equipment up at Kompiam airstrip next to the hospital and, after a 20-minute flight (with stunning views over PNG’s jungle) landed safely in the village of Yenkisa.

The sound of the MAF Cessna Caravan’s engine announces that it is time for the people of the surrounding area to head for the runway and report their complaints to us.

Plane in Kompiam, Papua New GuineaWhat we saw most often there were malaria, pregnant women for monitoring, inflamed wounds, contraceptive questions, joint pain from hard physical labour and tuberculosis.

The most seriously ill people can fly back to the hospital for further treatment, with the MAF aircraft as an ambulance.

Lasting impressions 

After two days and a huge variety of diagnoses, we get picked up by the German MAF pilot Mathias Glass and his Dutch co-pilot Piet, and get safely flown back to Kompiam.

Alongside us in the aircraft was a highly pregnant woman, who gave birth to healthy twins the next day at the Kompiam District Hospital!

Twins born in Kompiam Hospital

With many new and interesting experiences in tow, we return to Kompiam and later back to Germany to finish the last few semesters of our medical studies.

Thank you MAF, for this wonderful experience! Your engagement and services in PNG are as valuable as gold.

Team at Kompiam Hospital