Surgical training programmes in the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste. BJS 2019; 106: e53-e61.

Published: 8th January 2019

Authors: D. A. Watters, E. McCaig, S. Nagra, I. Kevau


There is a surgical workforce shortage in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Pacific and Timor Leste. Previously, Pacific Island specialists who trained overseas tended to migrate.


A narrative review was undertaken of the training programmes delivered through the University of Papua New Guinea and Fiji National University's Fiji School of Medicine, and support provided through Australian Aid and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), including scholarships and visiting medical teams.


The Fiji School of Medicine MMed programme, which commenced in 1998, has 39 surgical graduates. Sixteen of 22 Fijians, nine of ten Solomon Islanders and four of five in Vanuatu currently reside and/or work in‐country. Surgical training in PNG began in 1975, and now has 104 general surgical graduates, 11 of whom originate from the Pacific Islands or Timor Leste. The PNG retention rate of local graduates is 97 per cent, with 80 per cent working in the public sector. Twenty‐two surgeons have also undertaken subspecialty training. Timor Leste has trained eight surgical specialists in PNG, Fiji, Indonesia or Malaysia. All have returned to work in‐country. The RACS has managed Australian Aid programmes, providing pro bono visiting medical teams to support service delivery and, increasingly, capacity building in the region. The RACS has funded scholarships and international travel grants to further train or sustain the surgical specialists.


The local MMed programmes have been highly successful in retaining specialists in the region. Partnerships with Australian Aid and RACS have been effective in ensuring localization of the faculty and ongoing professional development.

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