It is my privilege to write this article of the remarkable relationship between the Pacific Society of Reproductive Health (PSRH) and RANZCOG since 1991. In 1995, the first inaugural PSRH conference was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Since then, PSRH has continued to grow. We are most grateful to the continuous support of RANZCOG, its members and our Pacific Island members, in building and strengthening this relationship.
The idea of a Pacific reproductive health organisation was first raised during a discussion between a Pacific RANZCOG fellow, Dr Rajat Gyaneshwar and RANZCOG fellow colleagues Drs Brian Spurrett, Roger Gabb, and Jeremy Oats during an O&G workshop in 1991 in Sydney, Australia. In 1993, the concept of a Pacific Society of Reproductive Health was conceived at a meeting that was funded by AusAid and organised by the Fiji School of Medicine to discuss this concept further. There was a strong belief that RANZCOG and reproductive health providers in the Pacific could work effectively and collaboratively to improve sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific. PSRH was set up as a vehicle for professional networking between Australian and New Zealand specialists and their Pacific counterparts. The concept was nurtured in RANZCOG by Mrs Carmel Walker, supported by Drs Rajat Gyaneshwar and Wame Bravalilala (Fiji) and the late A/Prof Brian Spurrett, together with Roger Gabb and Jeremy Oats. After a two-year gestation, the first PSRH inaugural meeting was held in Vanuatu in 1995, funded by AusAid.
The year 2020 marks 35 years of this amazing relationship, and our incredible journey.
PSRH – who we are, our vision and mission
PSRH is now a Charitable Trust (not-for-profit-organisation) set up to provide support and professional development for reproductive and neonatal healthcare professionals in the Pacific. PSRH, although initially nurtured by RANZCOG, have over the years become more independent with its own secretariat. It embraces midwives and nurses who are key providers of women and child healthcare in the Pacific. The vision of the Society is: ‘To develop and strengthen the health professional workforce and build institutional capacity that responds adequately to the reproductive health needs of Pacific Island countries’.
PSRH works collaboratively and in partnership with RANZCOG, donor organisations namely UNFPA, SPC, UNICEF, PIPs (through RACs), governments, universities and other non-government organisations. We aim to strengthen and build workforce capacity in the Pacific, share knowledge, encourage personal development and increase job satisfaction in one’s own Pacific environment. In working together, we can also assist with policies, input into guidelines and develop interventions to improve reproductive health outcomes for women and families in the Pacific region.
We encourage you to browse our website psrh.org.nz.
How far we have come
Since the inception of PSRH in 1993, in Suva, Fiji, PSRH have organised 13 consecutive biennial conferences in different Pacific Island countries as outlined below.
Current PSRH Board, Secretariat and our members
There are nine members of the Board (President Dr Gunzee Gawin [PNG], two Vice Presidents Dr Karaponi Okesene-Gafa [NZ], Mrs Mary Siating [PNG midwife], Dr Roy Watson [Australia, treasurer], Mrs Tagiyaco Vakaloloma [Fiji, midwife], Dr Pushpa Nusair [Fiji, ex-officio, previous president], Dr Mary Bagita [PNG], Ms Nancy Pego [Solomon Islands], Dr Tapa Fidow [Samoa] and Dr Errollyn Tungu [Vanuatu]). The Secretariat was recently changed from the previous Head of Secretariat (HOS) Aiono Prof Alec Ekeroma to Dr Okesene-Gafa, who took over as the Acting HOS from May 2020. Other members of the secretariat include Suzanne Mikaele (admin officer), Ropeti Gafa (project coordinator), Hemant Patel (IT support) and Theresa Mittemeier (Pacific Journal of Reproductive Health manager) and Ben Mikaeke (volunteer).
Over the years, PSRH has become increasingly recognised by governments and other key related organisations as a body of influence and actions, with significant knowledge to aid health core planning in reproductive, sexual and neonatal healthcare in the Pacific. PSRH has slowly increased its membership base across all groups (doctors, midwifes, nurses, community health workers, researchers) and encouraging students to join.
Our journey together
We have been blessed to share this journey with RANZCOG throughout the last 35 years, and long may it continue.
PSRH has a representative in the RANZCOG Global Health Committee (GHC). A memorandum of understanding exists between RANZCOG and PSRH where RANZCOG outlines their support for PSRH including some financial support for PSRH activities. PSRH submit a twice-yearly report to the RANZCOG GHC.
During COVID-19, PSRH members have been able to access RANZCOG COVID-19 updates. In August 2020, RANZCOG in partnership with PSRH hosted the COVID-19 O&G webinar series featuring those in the Pacific and Pacific rim, Australia and UNFPA. The series of three webinars was facilitated by Dr Rebecca Mitchell (GHC), ‘An introduction to COVID-19 in pregnancy for resource-limited environments’. This was well received.
RANZCOG seeks to provide excellence in women’s health by training, accrediting and supporting specialist service providers in the Pacific. RANZCOG has provided scholarships for Pacific specialists and trainees for skills development workshops and conference attendance. As a result of training and accreditation process, most Pacific specialists are associate members of RANZCOG. This recognition of Pacific specialists by RANZCOG is much appreciated. Several Pacific midwives have benefitted from a RANZCOG initiative and DFAT funding to attend leadership training courses in Australia and New Zealand. This has strengthened nursing and midwifery leadership in the Pacific.
Several RANZCOG Fellows have assisted with workshops delivered to Pacific Island countries as part of professional development. Workshops included ultrasound, colposcopy, intrapartum care, perineal care, hysteroscopy, oncology, urogynaecology, fetal medicine, research, emergency maternal and neonatal training, and others. Workshops are provided ‘in country’ depending on country request or during the pre-conference workshops prior to the biennial scientific meetings.
RANZCOG trainees are also encouraged to take part. A good example was that almost eight years ago a Melbourne trainee spent a period of her training in Fiji. She has subsequently visited on many occasions, conducted pre-exam courses and a cervical cancer screening program pilot. The trainee worked with local counterparts to pilot a screening tool using HPV testing and point of care management using colposcopy and cervical ablation.
Our joint PSRH-RANZCOG call to action
The Pacific needs Fellows to be involved to assist in a substantial way. PSRH is a vehicle for that involvement.
- Become a member; your membership helps subsidise membership rates for low-income Pacific members. Donations also welcome.
- Attend the Biennial Conferences (i.e. PSRH Samoa 2021 Conference on 28 August – 3 September 2021). Your attendance helps financially, but more importantly, you will meet your Pacific colleagues and share the benefits of networking. You can also help with pre-conference workshops.
- Make yourself available to assist with RANZCOG/PSRH projects such as workshops, assist through clinical locum type appointments, mentoring Pacific trainees and junior specialists.
- If you’re interested in the advancement of PSRH, contact us and be a volunteer.