The work done by this team is supported by the St Vincents Hospital Fiji Scabies Trust Fund.   Donations to this fund are tax deductible.



Background History  

Over the last 8 years, Dr Margot Whitfeld and her team from St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, now partnered with Dr Andrew Steer from the Murdoch Children's Institute in Melbourne and the extended team from the Kirby Institute at UNSW, have been working in Fiji and with the Fijian health community looking at, and helping with the widespread problem of scabies. Scabies is a skin disease caused by a tiny eight-legged mite that burrows under the skin. The broken skin can become infected with bacteria causing boils and other serious skin infections like cellulitis as well as complications including septicaemia, kidney failure, rheumatic heart disease and even death.  

We have a team of two full time project officers, one ifrom Australia, Ms Lucia Romani, and one from Fiji, Mr Aminiasi Koroi. The team includes dermatologists, paediaticians, epidemiologists and stasticians from Australia and Fiji.   

With the help of funding from the Australian Goverment’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the backing of Fiji’s Ministry of Health, the first meeting of all the trial staff, local doctors and nurses and researchers was held in March this year, the culmination of years of effort , by many people.The trial will involve finding out the best way to treat scabies in isolated populations.  It has invovled the logistics to set up the trials on small remote islands and mainland villages that may only have enough fuel to run a generator for two hours a day or have access to only a communal water supply - a very different Fiji from that on the tourist route!  This latest $600,000 grant will pay for such things as medication and blood tests, salaries for nurses and researchers, transport and generator fuel.

The scabies control research project will be conducted during 2012 and 2013.

Margot also regularly volunteers at the skin clinic at Tamavua Twomey Hospital in Suva when in Fiji on her research trips.  There also has been local Artarmon support over the years with a fundraiser and donations of supplies for isolated schools when Margot has visited, at times with her two daughters, Zoe and Emma helping. 

Andrew Steer is also conducting research into the best way to diagnose and treat rheumatic heart disease in Fii, a disease which causes much death and disability there. 

Margot and Andrew have been passionate about health in Fiji over the last 10 years and it is very exciting to now see it reach this point with the help of such a capable team and the support of both Australian and Fijian governments. As Margot said in a recent Radio National interview “the success of such a program is determined by the will of the country” and a lot of hard work from many dedicated people.  

The next projects will be looking at ways to improve skin health and leprsoy care in Fiji

With thanks to Jane Cozens - Artarmon Gazette





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