Mr Albert Kaiapam is the Principal Physiotherapist at the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu. He has oversight of the Physiotherapy Department at both Vila Central Hospital (VCH), the country’s main referral hospital, and Northern Provincial Hospital (NPH), the second largest hospital in Vanuatu.
Albert was first inspired to become a physiotherapist when he was working as a Community Based Rehabilitation fieldworker with the Vanuatu Society for People with Disability (VSPD) many years ago. A Canadian Occupational Therapist volunteer working with VSPD saw his potential and encouraged him to study physiotherapy. Albert moved to Fiji to study at Fiji National University. He reports the first few terms were challenging as he did not have a science background, however he persisted with his studies and returned to Vanuatu as a qualified physiotherapist in 2003. He joined one other physiotherapist, Leitare Rubani, working at VCH.
Albert has seen huge change and growth in the Physiotherapy Department over his 16 years of work. When he first started he describes how very few people knew what physiotherapy was. From a team of two practicing physiotherapists, the Department now has five physiotherapists (four based at VCH, and one at NPH) with a further two graduating and returning to Vanuatu next year. On any given day they see at least 20 patients, both inpatients and outpatients, covering areas such as surgical, medical, maternity care, amputee rehabilitation, stroke management, pain management, cardiorespiratory and sports injuries. Albert is very proud of this growth and looks forward to the future, where his dream is for Vanuatu to have a rehabilitation centre that would be a ‘one stop shop’ for people to receive the rehabilitation care that they need. The Ministry of Health are also planning over time to extend physiotherapy services to every province.
Along with the growth of the Department, Albert reports another important change that he has seen is the strengthening of the mobility device service, and is very appreciative of the support of Motivation Australia in this process: “We’ve gone from nothing, just a few second hand walking aids, to now providing standard devices to everyone.” The hospital now have a supply of stock onsite. He describes how useful this has been, and highly values the support of Motivation Australia.
Albert loves his work as he gets to meet lots of different kinds of people. In particular, he enjoys seeing people recover, and he sums up well why he enjoys it so much, “It makes you feel like you did something for someone.”
MA thanks Albert, the Physiotherapy Department, and all partners in mobility device service provision in Vanuatu for their hard work, time and commitment to providing quality mobility device services. We acknowledge the valuable contribution of the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) to the Pacific MDS Project, along with support provided by the Hackett Foundation. We also acknowledge the on-going support of the Latter-day Saints Charities (LDSC) who provide both financial support and in-kind donations of quality wheelchairs. Finally, MA would like to thank Vanuatu Skills Partnership for generously funding a recent shipment of mobility devices in Vanuatu.