Doctor opts for tough job

HERE'S a job for you. Work, travel and live in a developing country with political unrest. Sleep on a mat in a bedroom with four other people. And to make the experience more worthwhile, you're not going to get paid!

It's not what many people would volunteer to do, but Tweed doctor Kelly Francis has and she leaves for the tsunami-affected region of Banda Aceh in 10 days.

A desire to help people still suffering from the devastating tsunamis prompted Dr Francis, who works at Tweed City Family Practice, to volunteer with the Australian Relief and Mercy Service (ARMS), spending two weeks supporting medical services in an accident and emergency outpatient setting.

Dr Francis said diseases most prevalent in the area included: cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and malaria while diarrhoea is a real problem due to malnourishment and limited sources of protein available.

"Volunteers are helping to set up new GP clinics in areas that were left with nothing - hundreds of thousands of people are still in need of medical help," she said.

"We will also try to set up coffee shops to allow counselling services to reach the local people - it's vital for their psychological wellbeing to have access to counselling after the devastation and loss they have experienced, and coffee shops are somewhere people feel comfortable going for a chat.

"Local people have been trained in counselling but it costs between $300$400 to set up these cafes."

She said the thing that worried her most about the volunteer work was the travel each day to the medical centre where she would work six days each week.

"There's just so much political unrest over there - it's a bit worrying.

However, Dr Francis said her time in Banda Aceh would "put a bit of perspective back into medicine".

"I'd like to do more of this type of work - this may be the first of many."

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