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When the Government of Vanuatu requested the assistance of the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) to combat the COVID outbreak, our Nurse Unit Manager, Jason Phieler was again happy to put up his hand.

“Living in a wealthy nation, such as Australia, I feel like it’s our obligation to assist our pacific neighbours in times of emergency. Whilst Vanuatu has remained COVID free for the last two years, they have gone from 0 cases to widespread community transmission in just one month overwhelming their health system,” said Jason.

Jason and a team of 4 other health professionals were deployed from 23 March until 7 April, working closely with key Government of Vanuatu officials and health workers leading the COVID-19 response on Efate and Santo islands.

“Our role was to provide public health & technical advice on the management of severe COVID cases. This included training such as oxygen delivery systems, proning patients, administering specific medications and infection prevention and control measures to protect staff and patients.

Jason has worked at Great Ocean Road Health Lorne campus since 2002 and took personal leave to assist on the COVID frontline in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Darwin and his latest deployment to Vanuatu.

He says his role at Great Ocean Road Health has provided him with the necessary skills and expertise to develop effective COVID management plans to not only prepare but hopefully manage COVID outbreaks.

“A real highlight for me in Vanuatu was empowering local health care workers through education and witnessing them implement these interventions to improve COVID patient outcomes. He said his time in Vanuatu highlights the importance of keeping up your vaccination status and remaining diligent in regards to hand hygiene and social distancing when required.

Great Ocean Road Health has proactively supporting our partners during COVID and is very proud of the work Jason has performed in Australia and overseas. Each deployment, Jason is not only able to share his skills overseas but bring back to us new skills he has learnt to assist us in each new outbreak.

Photo: A clinical demonstration of Jason teaching doctors how to prone conscious patients (LHS) () at Northern Provincial Hospital in Lugenville Santo Island.