On Friday 14th June 2019, Honourable Dr Saia Maú Piukala, Minister for Health & Public Enterprises and Ms Rhona Mcphee Deputy Australian High Commissioner officially opened the rehabilitation department at Vaiola Hospital.
The completion of the renovation of the former kitchen building at the back of Vaiola Hospital, is a major milestone in the establishment of physical rehabilitation services in Tonga. The renovation and equipping of the rehabilitation department is a key part of the two year and five month, Tonga Rehabilitation and Mobility (TRaM) project being implemented by Motivation Australia in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The rehabilitation service will offer five services initially: physiotherapy, wheelchairs, walking aids, prosthetic and orthotic devices. The introduction of lower limb prosthetics and orthotics to Tonga is a particular focus of the project. Now, for the first time, the Ministry of Health can provide amputees with the products and services they require. Importantly, these services will be delivered by Tongan personnel, trained to International standards of practise.
When I first stood looking at the old kitchen building with one of the Tongan Physiotherapists in November 2016, I knew we would need to work very hard to achieve our goals. Anyone who saw the building then, would know that it was almost full to the ceiling with storage. It was hard to believe, opening the building on Friday, that it was the same building!
Through a process of design and engineering with ITS Pacific, and then construction with Kauasi Lomu and his workers, the Motivation Australia and Rehabilitation teams have literally transformed an almost derelict building – into a brand new rehabilitation facility. The project has also procured, shipped and installed the machinery, furniture and tools. The technology implemented matches the training that the team have participated in. Training and mentoring of the local team is on-going both in Tonga and overseas.
I hope that the process of renovating the former kitchen building serves as an example of what can be achieved with vision, willpower and a lot of manpower. I would like to thank the team at Motivation and the staff of the Rehabilitation department for everyone’s hard work getting us this far. However the hard work isn’t over: it is just beginning. Just as the project has transformed this building – so the rehabilitation department will transform the lives of Tongans that require the services. Over the remaining year of the project we will be in Tonga to help the team to grow into their new roles, and deliver quality products and services using the new equipment and renovated facilities.
The TRaM project and this building’s renovation are funded through the Australian Government’s Disability Inclusive Development (DID) programme. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people and Government of Australia for their continued support of our work in Tonga.
Ray Mines – Tonga Project Manager