19 October 2020

Volunteer Service Abroad Te Tūao Tāwāhi (VSA) and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) have signed a five year partnership agreement which will support emergency medicine and emergency care development across the Pacific.

The partnership will initially help develop emergency care capacity in Tonga and Vanuatu (in partnership with each country’s respective Ministry of Health) with the possibility to extend to other Pacific nations in the future. 

 Emergency medical care (EC) in the Pacific has been put under extra pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent (June 2020) report  has found “gaps in functional capacity” and “a low level of training for EC, limited areas and incomplete equipment for care provision, complicated by care delivery in overcrowded and unsafe areas”.  

The report, which was based on a survey of over 200 emergency care stakeholders from across the Pacific, also stated that: “EC is a low priority across the Pacific and integrated poorly with disaster plans. Participants emphasised human resource support and government recognition of EC as priority actions.”

The initial VSA/ACEM volunteer assignment will be with Vaiola Hospital in Nuku’alofa and will support development of its emergency medical department. VSA and ACEM will work together to recruit a highly skilled  volunteer in this specialised area of medicine.

“This partnership will support VSA’s vision to build thriving communities by supporting improvements to emergency care in the Pacific,” said Stephen Goodman, Chief Executive, VSA. “By working together we can make the most of our shared goals and  focus on locally-led emergency care capacity development.

“VSA will have access to ACEM’s skillsets in Emergency Medicine, Nursing and pre-hospital EC that are not widely available and will provide volunteering opportunities to ACEM’s New Zealand fellows and advanced trainees.

“Recruiting for volunteers in the field of emergency medicine has been a challenge for VSA in recent years. For example, we have been advertising for a Doctor-Emergency Medicine since July and have been unable to recruit a suitable person. We are confident that this collaboration with ACEM will benefit Pacific communities.”

“This partnership will contribute to ACEM’s vision of ensuring emergency care is recognised as an essential part of universal health care,” said John Bonning (ACEM President)  “ACEM believes that emergency care should be available and accessible to everyone and we are committed to improving Pacific countries’ capacity to deliver safe and effective emergency care.”

As well as providing VSA and its partners with medical expertise, ACEM will assist VSA with developing volunteer assignments, and recruiting skilled volunteers to suitable positions.  Personal and professional development of volunteers and counterparts will be supported through mentoring and training.

More information

Emergency medical care in the Pacific




The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM)

ACEM is a not-for-profit organisation, based in Melbourne, Australia, serving a membership of more than 5600 members (fellows and trainees) from across Australia and New Zealand. One of the key pillars of ACEM’s work is in the advancement of emergency care and a commitment to improving the capacity of low and middle-income countries to deliver safe and effective emergency care, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region. The ACEM Foundation established in 2012, contributes philanthropically towards emergency medicine research, international emergency medicine and supporting Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori doctors in emergency medicine training, and building the capacity of emergency medicine programmes in developing countries.

Volunteer Service Abroad Te Tūao Tāwāhi (VSA)

VSA is New Zealand’s largest and most experienced volunteer agency working in international development. Since 1962, VSA has been bringing New Zealanders and partners together to share skills and experience, working to transform lives and create a fair future for all. VSA works with its partners overseas to make sure that all our assignments are locally identified and locally relevant. VSA’s goal is to transfer skills and knowledge so that the changes achieved during each assignment remain sustainable in the long term.

For more information contact us here.