700 lives saved as charity changes name


Sydney, New South Wales

A team of 48 volunteer medicos, coordinated by the Sydney Adventist Hospital (SAH or “the San”), have marked their 22nd annual trip to Fiji by performing heart surgery on their 700th patient. 

Our 700th patient was a 21-year-old boat mechanic who would have died within a year without surgery.

During the two-week surgery intensive in Fiji’s capital, Suva, the volunteers operated on 43 adults and children, some of whom owe their lives to the team. “Our 700th patient was a 21-year-old boat mechanic who would have died within a year without surgery,” said Melanie Windus, who coordinated the trip. “It was great to see how he was helped not just by our team, but by the hospital community and even the local Adventist Dorcas ladies.”

SAH volunteers worked side-by-side with local health workers during the San’s 22nd annual trip to Fiji. [Photo courtesy: OHI]

The San’s medical outreach program, which commenced in 1986, has extended to Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and parts of South-East Asia and Africa. Various SAH projects have focused on eye surgery, burns reconstruction and women’s health, as well as heart surgery. But the growth of the program has sometimes been accompanied by confusion about the various project identities: “Operation Open Heart”, “Gift of Sight”, “HealthCare Outreach”, et cetera.

Last month, final approval was granted for a name change to encompass all of the San’s overseas volunteer medical projects: “Open Heart International (OHI)”. The new name has no effect on the legal structure of the program. “We still operate as part of the activities of Sydney Adventist Hospital and Adventist HealthCare Limited,” said OHI manager Michael Were.

A volunteer assesses a young patient during. [Photo courtesy: OHI]

The rebadging is being highlighted by an awareness campaign, with a new website <www.ohi.org.au>, as well as a social media presence. OHI is currently looking for medical volunteers for 2014, when it will coordinate surgical outreach in seven countries including Fiji, the Philippines and Rwanda.