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What ever it takes! Another medical dropoff story

Oxytocin is a life-saving drug to contract the uterus for mothers after delivery and reduce the chances of severe blood loss. Last weekend we had a day of delivering medicine and vaccine to 5 remote health centres which also had run low on oxytocin. I get a bit paranoid when there is no oxytocin available in the labor room at remote health centres we support so whatever it takes to get it there quickly we’ll do it.

It was one of the few fine days we’ve had all month so we took advantage of the weather window. We had 3 HC’s with airfields and 2 HCs without so they were water landings. We traveled 200 nautical miles and over two hours flying with 12 takeoffs and landings.


Peter Nevelle helps out loading medical supplies. OZ Runways map of our flight plan with the Beaver shown approaching Cape Vogal.

The plan for today was out of Gurney direct to Rabaraba across the Owen Stanley’s then Cape Vogal, across the sea to Budoya, a short hop over the bay to Esa’ala then Sehulea and finally back to home base Gurney.

Mountains skirting Rabaraba. You can understand the difficulty Mothers have walking to the health centre.

Our first medicine drop off was at Rabaraba – Adam is all smiles to receive his medical supplies. The HC is 15 minutes walk from the airstrip so a wheelbarrow is handy. Locals can’t resist lighting fires when the grass dries out, so Adam was putting out grass fires when we arrived overhead and we could land for a while.

Approaching Cape Vogal  ( Tarakararuru ) is exposed and always windy. Health staff and their families meet us on the airstrip.

After unloading cargo and asking sister if she has any patients or mothers she is concerned about which we should take back to Alotau with us we relax a little and catch up in Cape Vogal news. It’s always a social event and we feel we are supporting our colleges at the coal face. As I have said many times before without these rural remote health staff many more lives would be lost.

It’s great to drop in and deliver much needed medical supplies and have a relaxed time catching up with health staff and their families. It’s what we love to do. There were no patients to bring back to Alotau this time.

A 40-minute flight across the water and we landed at  Budoya.  I guess we are the first float plane to land here since Qantas ran their service using Catalina flying boats but I could be wrong. This was our first time to land in the bay next to the Budoya Catholic Health Centre. Maria von trap taught the Budoya choir how to sing Austrian high mass which they can still sing today. The jetty was packed full of children so we anchored off and delivered medicine and 20 mothers incentive gift as the centre had run out.

Packed jetty, and the dingy that pulled alongside for us to unload.

The next centre was Esa’ala where there is a nice beach to nose up too. Our final health centre was Sehulea where we had supplies of oxytocin and misoprostol. Sehulea is usually a pleasant place to land however on this occasion local villages allowed their pigs to dig up the grassy strip and it was unserviceable. We couldn’t see the damage from the air and had to pull up very quickly and we had to do some repair work by filling holes before we could take off safely.

On our return journey the Owen Stanley’s were covered in dense cloud so we climbed to 5600’  to cross over and caught a rare glimpse of Alotau wedged between the sea and mountains below.

Milne Bay, Alotau, and rugged Owen Stanley’s which is the spine of PNG.

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