Rowarn Luder – Interplast
Interplast is a partnership between Australian and New Zealand Rotary and the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. Whilst similar in nature to ROMAC in that the programme involves plastic surgery, the difference is that ROMAC bring patients into the country for complex treatment whilst Interplast send teams out to both deal with less complicated surgery and to train both doctors and nurses. Rotary’s support is critical to the programme with Rotarians sitting on the Board and with three Rotarians as members of the company. Interplast also relies upon Rotary clubs in the countries in which it operates.
In the South Pacific region, the most common cause of injury which requires Interplast intervention is burns. Rowarn showed us a picture of Amanda who was five years old and whose arm had been literally welded to the body. Children like her face littler or no future as they are ostracized, become a burden on their societies and sometimes killed.
Although treatment is relatively easy, the World Health Organization estimates that some 2 billion people have no access to basic medical care.. For instance, in the PNG, there is but one plastic and reconstructive surgeon for the whole of its 7.5 million people.
One issue is that doctors do come from these under-privileged countries to train in Australia but, all too often, remain in Australia and New Zealand because of the money they can earn.
Whilst the team on an Interplast trip volunteers their time for free, money is still required to fund travel and accommodation and pay for local supplies and local hospital expenses. The edict is to cause as little burden upon the local facilities as possible. So teams take just about all of their own equipment and supplies…with equipment often weighing up to 300 kgs. The tours are usually for two weeks and they travel as far a field as Mongolia, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lank and the Pacific Islands.
Interplast has now conducted more than 23,000 operations, had more than 40,000 consultations and, this year, will send 75 teams abroad. On average, some 31% of the procedures will be for cleft palate, 22% for burns, 18% for trauma and 19% the removal of tumours.
Interplast is one of only a few organizations that are fully accredited with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, meaning the donations are fully tax deductable. A team costs around $45,00 to send although a Rotary Observer can be added for a further $10,000.
At around $1,000 per patient, Interplast achieves a lot for the cash!