Aussies, Israelis unite for Fiji

Australian medical personnel (from left) Michael Gordon, Rob Berkowitz and Mark Fajgman treat a young patient in Fiji.

AN Australian medical team has returned from an Israeli-backed humanitarian mission to Fiji sent to perform highly specialised ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery on young patients.

A group of Australian specialists with the Australasian Jewish Medical Federation visited the capital Suva for the surgeries, with backing from the Israel Foreign Ministry’s Mashav Agency for International Development Cooperation and the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.

At Suva’s Colonial War Memorial Hospital, the team treated some 50 children whose ENT conditions cannot be handled by hospital personnel.

They worked closely with Fijian doctors through the South Pacific island nation’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Melbourne ENT surgeon Michael Gordon told The AJN the team performed 21 surgeries during their 10-day visit.

One of the children the team aided was two-year-old Florabelle Taylor Moses, who has suffered severe breathing problems since birth. They performed a complex five-hour surgery on Florabelle on July 28 and she is recovering well.

The child’s mother Roberta Taylor posted on Facebook: “Thank you for your love and support for our little island. May the Lord God of Israel continue to bless the work of your hands.”

The Australian group – including Eduard Pudel, Mark Fajgman and Gordon, with registered nurse Gail McNaught – arrived to a jubilant welcome by Fijians waving Israeli flags at Nausori International Airport on July 23. “They were so thankful and so warm,” said Gordon.

The Israeli mission was the latest in a series beginning in 2013, he said, with Mashav using Australian medical personnel because of their geographic proximity to Fiji.

During the team’s visit, Tibor Shalev Schlosser, Israel’s new non-resident ambassador to Fiji, presented his credentials to Fijian President Jioji Konousi Konrote.

An exhibition at Fiji National University highlighted Israeli innovation in many fields, and Fiji and Israel signed an agricultural memorandum of understanding at the event.

Schlosser’s arrival coincided with the first anniversary of a Mashav–IsraAID project to Fiji to help rebuild 24 houses destroyed by Cyclone Winston in the village of Vuma.

PETER KOHN