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Collaborative medical treatment a lifeline for young Fijian patient
Updates / News, 30 Jun 24
In the Pacific, countless families grapple with the devastating reality that life-saving medical treatments are often out of reach. For one young Fijian boy, this was his lived experience. Struggling with Cushing’s Disease, a hormonal condition with devastating implications, his chances of diagnosis and treatment were challenging in the Pacific.

Dr. James Auto, a dedicated Senior Paediatrician with Aspen Medical Fiji, was the first to recognise the danger faced by the young patient.   

“In looking for the underlying cause, we had some suspicion that we should be examining his endocrine system. We are profoundly grateful because, together with Professor Hofman, we navigated a maze of endocrine testing.

“Through his guidance, via online and email consultations, and finally his arrival, we uncovered the issue. Here in Fiji, we lack the investigative power and mechanisms due to our limited resources,” Dr. Auto explained.  

Professor Paul Hofman, a respected paediatrician and endocrinologist from Auckland, has spent two decades volunteering with the Fiji Ministry of Health. His dedication, combined with the relentless efforts of local health staff, led to the boy’s diagnosis and a life-saving treatment plan.  

“I have to thank my Fijian colleagues for their tireless efforts in identifying the condition and performing the initial tests, despite severe resource constraints. I am also grateful to my New Zealand colleagues for pinpointing the tumor and to the neurosurgeon who successfully removed it,” shared Professor Hofman. 

Professor Hofmans deployment to Fiji, and the ensuing treatment plan for the young patient was supported by the New Zealand Medical Treatment Scheme (NZMTS), which is facilitated by the Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) Groupand funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Reflecting on the impact of the overseas referral scheme carried out by the NZMTS, Professor Hofman said, “I believe we have an obligation to each other. New Zealand is part of a larger family—we are all part of the South Pacific. Many of us are not that wealthy, and we should share the resources we have.

“One of the significant challenges has been the prohibitively high cost of transferring children from the islands to New Zealand or Australia.”  

Dr. Auto echoed this sentiment, underscoring the profound effect of such partnerships on the Fijian health sector. 

“We see many impoverished people with treatable conditions that we simply can’t address due to resource limitations. The NZMTS partnership is a lifeline for us and our patients.” 

After a successful surgery, the young boy is now on the path to recovery, working to rebuild his body’s natural cortisol production. His father, overwhelmed with emotion, expressed the family’s immense gratitude. 

“The support from the Pasifika Medical Association and other agencies has been a tremendous help. They have taken such good care of us here in New Zealand. My son is a bright child, and now, with this treatment, we can finally dare to hope and dream for his future.”