group of Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons from the city of Quy
Nhon have been in Dunedin this week, observing hip and knee
Hip and knee replacements are carried out only in Vietnam's
main centres, not in Quy Nhon, which has a population of
260,000, although some of its hospitals serve a much larger
The visit was organised by the New Zealand Viet Nam Health
Trust, of which Dunedin orthopaedic surgeon John Dunbar is a
board member. Mr Dunbar and fellow orthopaedic surgeon Simon
McMahon have spent the week showing the surgeons operations
at Dunedin and Mercy hospitals, and teaching them about
pre-operative and post-operative care.
Next week, the surgeons head to Nelson and then Auckland, for
further clinical observation. The three-week visit continues
co-operation fostered when the New Zealand Surgical Team was
based in Quy Nhon from 1963 to 1975. The New Zealand Services
Medical Team was 100km north at Bong Son, also in Binh Dinh
province, from 1967 to 1971.
There was a break in the link at the end of the Vietnam War
in 1975 until the early 1990s, when New Zealanders returned
to the area.
The surgeons work at three different hospitals, the biggest
of which was a leprosy hospital that treats patients from up
to 12 provinces (15 million people).
The rehabilitation centre treats children born with
deformities, one of the causes of which was likely to be
defoliants like Agent Orange, used in the war.
The Vietnamese surgeons' areas of expertise were trauma,
deformity correction, and leprosy surgery.
Mr Dunbar hoped to travel to Quy Nhon in the next year to
help once they started carrying out the operations. It would
be his 11th visit.
The surgeons were particularly interested in observing
arthroscopic (key-hole) surgery.
Interpreter Phuoc Nguyen said memories were strong of the New
Zealand doctors and nurses who provided medical care in the
1960s and 1970s, including Dunedin's Dr Brian McMahon, father
of Simon McMahon.
''Still people talk about the Kiwi doctors. They say Kiwi
doctors saved their lives,'' he said.
''After the war, an interruption, from 1975 until 1991-92
[when] they came back. They came back and provided support to
local health care,'' Mr Phuoc said. Mr McMahon said hip and
knee replacements were increasingly seen as mainstream
surgery in Vietnam, which was increasing its health spending
and had a booming economy.
Spurred by this father's involvement with the area, Mr
McMahon has visited several times, and is a member of the
trust. Before the doctors leave the South, Mr McMahon is
taking them to Queenstown for the weekend.