Vila Central Hospital (VCH) is the main referral hospital in Vanuatu and is situated in Port Vila, Efate. VSA volunteer, Diane Edwards, works at the VCH as the Paediatric Mental Health Advocate. Diane started her first 12-month assignment with the VCH in December 2022 and is now returning to Vanuatu to commence yet another assignment at the start of 2024. Here’s a glance at Diane’s recent contributions and achievements at VCH…

Diane has played a key role in writing the VCH Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and conducting Child Protection training sessions for doctors and nurses at VCH. The training was held over five months and to date, 135 staff have attended the training. “The sessions were well attended, and doctors commented the week after the final session that they had two cases of child abuse over the weekend and felt quite confident to recognise such cases and implement the correct steps to action. I was also invited by Dr Sereana (Director, Ministry of Health) to attend the Provisional Hospitals Managers annual meeting to talk about the VCH Child Protection Policy and training. All managers reported being interested in a national policy being written and for subsequent training to commence in 2024. One of the main agendas for 2024 will include planning for workshops across five provincial hospitals in Vanuatu”.

In addition to providing resourceful Child Protection training to staff, Diane has also been involved in facilitating training sessions in paediatric mental health care for the paediatric nurses at VCH and trainee nurses from Vanuatu Nursing College. In December, 40 final-year nursing students from Vanuatu Nursing College were trained in Paediatric Mental Health. “Nurse Jessica from the Paediatric Ward continues to work with me regarding paediatric mental health, and skill-building sessions with her have continued to build her knowledge and confidence. We have worked together to enrol Jessica in a Bachelor of Nursing at USP (Fiji) to commence with an online course in 2024.”

Diane’s active involvement with the Vanuatu Society for Disabled People (VSDP) hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Accessing health and medical services is challenging for children with disabilities and their families so a series of health check-ups were organised for children with disability at VCH. “This is the first ever occasion where the children and carers attended VCH outpatients. This initiative was extremely successful and we’re planning for this to become a regular event.”

As Diane returns to Vanuatu for her new assignment, she looks forward to contributing a lot more to the mental health of Ni-Vanuatu children… It has been a great past year with many outcomes achieved, wonderful relationships made, and amazing experiences. I eagerly look forward to 2024”.