The third post-Covid team has returned from TL. The last team for the year always has the tough job of winding things up for the year, and planning for the next. Team 3 was led by Dr Mary Tiutiunnik, who was joined by Dr Leslie Leong and Dr Ashul Kaul.
In what seems to be the theme for 2022, this team spent a lot of time in meetings, and they started on Day 1! Hindered by road closures for the Dili Marathon, the first meeting of the Australian and Timorese members of the TLDP with the Carmelite leadership was late in the day. This was the first of several meetings to discuss a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the TLDP, Rotary, the Carmelites, and the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health. Meetings in TL are never small affairs, and this one was a party of 9 – the 3 Australian dentists, 2 Timorese dental nurses, Ana Tilman and Nico Pires, the heads of the Carmelite order, Sister Santina and Sister Inacia, the head of the Carmelite clinic in Maubara, Sister Fatima, and translator, Isabel Pereira. After the meeting, the team then made their way to the Maubara where they spent the night in the air-conditioned comfort of the Retreat House before heading up to Maubisse.
The next day, dental therapists, Nico Pires and Ana Tilman promptly managed the packing of all the dental gear into the cars. After picking up another of our mentees in Liquiça, Tino Morais, who runs the dental clinic in Gleno Hospital, they made their way via the “shortcut” road to Maubisse. They stopped for lunch at Aileu and all agreed that the “shortcut” road was terrible and they would go the long way home the following Saturday.
On their arrival in Maubisse, they discovered that their Carmelite hosts were not due back until after dinner as they were at a ceremony on Mt Ramelau. They also discovered that Dr Inda, the Maubisse hospital senior dentist who organised the clinics for the next week, was away in Dili visiting her sick mother. At 8 pm that evening when the clinic director, Sister Angelica, returned, she, and Sister Eva informed the team that the road to their first clinic at Manetu was in a bad condition and that they should reconsider going there. Sister Eva did a quick ring around and it was decided that the team’s first two days would be spent at the Franciscan school behind the Maubisse Hospital, the next two days at Maulau as planned, and their last day at the sisters’ Maubisse health clinic. With the sisters’ enthusiastic support and this new plan in place, they all breathed a sigh of relief and happily retired for the night.
On the morning of day 3, Sister Angelica accompanied the team to meet with the Maubisse hospital director. An important part of the program is meeting with other Timorese health staff and building relationships. They met with the co-director of the hospital and discovered that not one, but both, the Maubisse hospital dentists were away. Luckily, the team had the support of the Carmelites to ensure the organisation of their week!
Sister Angelica, Imel, the Carmelite clinic administrator, and Rino the technician joined the team and they set up at the big Franciscan senior and junior high school, Escola Santu Inacio de Loyola and Saõ Paulo. They were extremely busy and managed to treat every class at this school in two days! Imel and Rino were on loan for the week, so the team was very spoilt with a sterilising person and someone to record all the treatment.
The team was so efficient that they even had time at the end of the day to explore the market and the Pousada on the hill. As usual, the sisters’ legendary cooking and the cool weather were highlights of a week in Maubisse.
On Day 5 the team made their way to Maulau with Sr Eva. They were greeted by one of TL’s best school directors, according to the Timorese – Mr Martins, Director of the Maulau primary school. He stayed with the team throughout their visit ensuring the attendance and good behaviour of the students. He even made sure that the team was fed well, plying them with lunch and snacks! Over the next 2 days, they screened the entire primary school and the high school, treating students, staff, and community members.
On Day 8, the team took the long road home to Maubara. Serendipitously, this allowed a detour to Hatmatek waterfall, and a surprise stop at Ana Tilman`s home to have lunch with her big family (she has 11 siblings). Ana`s family home is about 15 minutes from Dili in a pineapple-growing region, so the lucky team bought a good supply to have back at Maubara.
Previously, teams would visit Black Rock Hotel in Caimeo Beach on their day of rest, but sadly this establishment has now been reclaimed by the sea. Nevertheless, there has been continued investment into the area, which is great to see. Over the last 19 years, the TLDP has seen so much change! On their only day ‘off’ the team headed to the new favourite hangout, Lauhata Beach Escape, for lunch, before Mary met with the Carmelite leadership for another MoU meeting. No rest for the wicked, Mary.
The team spent the next 4 days on the sweltering coast. The first very hot two days were spent at a nearby health centre in Ediri, treating the community. The second very hot two days were spent at our base, the Carmelite Maubara Dental clinic where Nico and Ana are based. They were kept very busy treating children from the school down the road, as well as the Carmelites and the community.
The Australian contingent team were flying out on Friday, and Mary had yet another meeting on Friday in Dili with the sisters about the MoU, so the clinical week ended on Thursday. At the end of their second week Team 3 had examined 673 patients, extracted 402 teeth, filled 206 teeth, and performed 184 preventative procedures in some very challenging conditions. Good work team!