YESTERDAY WAS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY and, as president of Australian Doctors International, I want to highlight our team member and eye nurse Merelyn Aruke, a positive and enthusiastic woman who works tirelessly on patrols, never turning away a single patient.
We applaud the positive impact being made by exceptional women just like her throughout Papua New Guinea, especially in the areas of health, legal justice and violence against women.
Merelyn grew up in New Ireland and is the mother of three children. ADI’s integrated rural health patrols have taken her to places she’s never been to before.
She is a registered nurse who completed a Certificate of Eye Care at Divine Word University with the support of the Fred Hollows Foundation.
Merelyn now works at Kavieng General Hospital and is in charge of all specialist clinics.
“I’m so enthusiastic,” says Merelyn. "Patrols give me the opportunity to bring eye services to needy rural areas and to let those who need surgery know that a volunteer Australian ophthalmologist visits Kavieng once a year."
Dedicated, bright and one of just three people in New Ireland with eye care qualifications, Merelyn is an essential patrol team member. Last year at Panaras, Merelyn tended to 500 patients and at Mussau she saw 374.
Many patients waited outside in a heavy tropical downpour but didn’t let this deter them from the unique opportunity to get their eyes examined.
The main conditions seen on patrol are long-sightedness, cataracts and pterygiums ('Surfer's Eye').
Merelyn sells ready-made glasses for K20 -60 each, but since most villagers are subsistence farmers she often dips into her own pocket to ensure the most needy do not go without.
Dr Peter Macdonald OAM is president of Australian Doctors International and a former MP in the NSW parliament