Geraldton GPs take on Dili clinic

Anita KirkbrightGeraldton Guardian

A local GP has left Geraldton to become the medical director of a free clinic treating the poorest of the world’s poor, just 450km from Australia.

Dr Jeremy Beckett left the Mid West last month to work at Bairo Pite Clinic, in Dili, East Timor.

The former Geraldton Hospital anaesthetist said he expected to be very busy at the big clinic, which has 55 beds, 90 staff and receives about 6000 outpatients a month.

In comparison, Geraldton Hospital has 50-99 beds and, in 2013, averaged about 2200 patients a month at its emergency department.

Dr Beckett said he would receive a nominal annual salary of less than $20,000 while using his medical training to help disadvantaged people.

He said he and wife, Dr Bethany Nelson, who is a GP obstetrician, and their four children, would see first-hand what life was like for people in a developing country and the experience would give his family an opportunity to express their Christian faith in practical ways.

“It will be good for them to live in a foreign place and will help their faith and lead them to be global citizens,” Dr Beckett said of the couple’s children.

“There will be some professional challenges in working with the resources available in such a poor setting. They deal with life and death issues on a day-to-day basis.”

Bairo Pite Clinic’s volunteer manager of partnerships, funding and campaigns, Helen Moorfoot, said Dr Beckett had agreed to work for less than one-third of what the clinic usually paid visiting doctors, which was still low by Western standards.

She said the free clinic was funded by donations, mostly from Australia, and there was a constant struggle to find money to run it.

“The clinic’s staff, the board that supports it and our regular donors are very special people,” Ms Moorfoot said.

She said each month the team of 90 East Timorese staff, including at least three Western-trained doctor, treated 200 “very sick” inpatients and 6000 outpatients, gave 6000 TB doses and immunised 600 children, provided 600 antenatal women consultations, delivered 100 babies and prepared about 5000 meals.

Dr Beckett said if his family adjusted well to life in the developing country they could stay for up to six years.

He said they would return to Geraldton twice a year so he and his wife could do locum work to cover their living expenses in East Timor.

For more information about Bairo Pite Clinic, visit www.bairofoundation.org .

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