Posted by Vince Costantino on Aug 18, 2019
Geoff Booth introduced Elizabeth Batty.
Elizabeth is currently a year 12 student attending Austin Cove Baptist College. She is 17 years old.
In 2018, Elizabeth travelled to the Dominican Republic to perform volunteer work in a public hospital to gain experience, and to further her desire to pursue a career in nursing, specialising in midwifery. Elizabeth has always wanted to be a nurse; her passion for the career has been there since she was 4 years old. On completion of her year 12 studies, Elizabeth plans to commence a degree in nursing at Murdoch University.
Gap Medics is a specialist company dedicated to providing year-round hospital work experience placements abroad to students 16 years and over.Their programs in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean offer the volunteer an opportunity to gain insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists before beginning their formal clinical training. Not only will the student receive beneficial experience to help with university applications and interviews, but will also learn more about their future profession.
The Rotary Club of Pinjarra assisted Elizabeth with a $500 sponsorship to assist with her flight and Gap Medic costs.

Elizabeth's placement took her to La Romana, Dominican Republic, where the population speak a mixture of Spanish and Creole ( Spanish/French ).

The Gap Medics website says of the Dominican Republic that the population, location, and climate of many Caribbean islands plays a huge role in shaping the types of cases that their health professionals are faced with. The heat brings tropical diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, which are important considerations for healthcare providers working in birth medicine.

While the health departments in the Dominican Republic are understandably more traditional than in Australia and resources can sometimes be limited, students who join Gap Medics can expect the same high-quality mentorship as anywhere else. The student will be paired with a dedicated mentor who will be there to answer questions and explain complex cases - what better way to learn while gaining a global perspective on midwifery?

Having spent some time in the local St John of God Hospital in Murdoch, Elizabeth was shocked at the poor conditions and organisation she found in place in the Dominican hospital.
The hospital was understaffed, and in a great need of refurbishment. This however, lead Elizabeth to have a range of experiences, not only in midwifery but also in surgical procedures such as bone reset, limb removal and gangrene treatment.
In her chosen field, she learned and contributed her new-found skill assisting with many child deliveries; including a number by Caesarian Section (C Section).
The hospital conditions were often unsanitary compared to the standards occurring in Australia. In addition, the delivery theatre had only 1 usable table, and unfortunately, the theatre and equipment was in various states of disrepair. Still, the hospital staff manage well considering what is available. However, poor funding arrangements have caused a shortage of medicines. A mother will generally only receive medicinal pain relief after having delivered her baby. Because of the general poor health of the expectant mother, Dominicans experience the highest rate of C section births in the world, with many patients unable to afford even the stitching costs following the procedure.

The Dominican medical system works on 3 tiers with the 1st tier providing general coverage for those poorer citizens earning up to 5000 pesos ($150 AUD) per month . The 2nd tier covers those earning above 5000 pesos monthly. The final tier, referred to as the "tourist tier", is only affordable by tourists and the very wealthy citizens of the nation. The 1st tier system is not fully funded, so many suffer because of inadequate health services. The Dominican Republic is a poor country, with tourism one of the major earners of foreign currency. The nation allocates less than 5% of its Gross Domestic Product toward basic health care, and this is one of the reasons that their health system is delivering what we in Australia would call "unacceptable".
It was a sad realisation for Elizabeth that the "tourist hospitals" which had the most up-to-date equipment and buildings, were not made available to be utilised to provide services to the general public; even though these hospitals were often servicing few patients. It was tragic when compared to the reality of the experiences that many citizens endure.

Elizabeth related the story of a man who had a broken Femur which took 6 months before being surgically repaired. When this man initially presented at the hospital, he was given a number and told to wait to be seen by a doctor. This he did; from 7am to 8:30pm before a doctor attended to him. He was required to return 2 weeks later for the results of his X Rays, only to be then told that he would have to pay for the screws and plates that would be needed when the bone was reset during an operation. He modified a crutch with a wheel attached, which allowed him to work until he could afford the operation; six months later.

The availability of  a medical doctor can also be "random" as they don’t work set hours. This may be because the profession is generally not so well paid, and the doctors may be working at a second job.

Following a recent natural disaster in Haiti, many from that country received medical care in the Dominican Republic. However, the birth records of Haitian babies born in the Dominican Republic were not often recorded. The result was that these children were deemed to be "stateless", and having no passport, were often prevented from accompanying their mother when she attempted to return to Haiti.
The experience has given Elizabeth many contacts in the health profession. Her intention is to next year volunteer to do the same work in the Philippines.

Elizabeth gave a big "thank you" to the Rotary Club of Pinjarra for assisting her to volunteer for the Gap Medics program, and to have gained this unique experience.

Julie Gray complimented Elizabeth on her captivating talk and the passion she has for her chosen career. Julie wished Elizabeth all good fortune in the future and invited the meeting to thank her with a round of applause.