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Royal Navy dentists join Far East relief mission

22 September 2016
Royal Navy dentists treated hundreds of patients as they joined an international relief mission in the Far East.

It was the first time UK Armed Forces personnel have taken part in the US-led Pacific Partnership exercise.

Along with medical teams from the US, Japan and Australia, the five Royal Navy personnel spent five weeks in Vietnam and the remote western Pacific Ocean Republic of Palau.

Led by Surgeon Commander Karl Drummond, of RNAS Yeovilton, they began their work in the Da Nang community in Vietnam, where they helped treat more than 700 patients over 13 days.

Dental Nurse Lawrence Miller said, “I cannot believe the number of patients that have come for treatment. Providing training on cross-infection control measures has allowed the local support staff to improve their standards and we hope this will reduce the risk of contamination in their clinics.

“Working with dentists from the Japanese Defence Force has been fascinating. They are amazing people and I have enjoyed talking about their clinical techniques and life in the JDF.”

This year’s exercise also saw the Vietnam People’s Navy hospital ship Khánh Hòa take part, with the Royal Navy dentists holding clinics on board.

Working with dentists from the Japanese Defence Force has been fascinating. They are amazing people and I have enjoyed talking about their clinical techniques and life in the JDF

Dental Nurse Lawrence Miller

Surgeon Lieutenant Francesca Warwick, who treated a number of children from a Vietnamese orphanage, said, “These clinical sessions are exactly what PP is all about – nations learning from each other, exchanging professional expertise that enhance relationships and cooperation and most of all provide essential dental care to groups of unbelievably brave children.”

After a brief layover in Tokyo visiting the city and the British Embassy, the team, which included Leading Dental Nurse Lesley Hailey and Naval Nurse Teresa Long, made the 1,900-mile journey west to Palau, which has just four permanent dentists serving a population of around 15,000 blighted with severe tooth decay.

As well as treating hundreds of patients, many with complex and demanding conditions, treatment, the team also spent time educating children and parents on oral health.

Dentist Dr Beatrix Taime said, “We have a shortage of dentists in our community, so the waiting time for treatment can be three-to-four months long.

“The dentists with Pacific Partnership are helping with this, and are exposing us to new techniques which we will take on and use in the future. We are learning all the time we spend with the UK team.”

During their time in Palau the Royal Navy team lived alongside their Japanese, US and Australian colleagues on the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force vessel Shimokita, which was accompanied by the USNS hospital ship Mercy.

Before leaving for home, the team travelled 25 miles south to the five-square-mile island of Peleliu for a memorial service to the American and Japanese forces who lost their lives during the Battle of Peleliu from September to November 1944.

Surgeon Commander Drummond said, “I am extremely proud of what my team have achieved. This has been a fantastic opportunity for the UK to demonstrate our professional capability in a testing environment.

“We have enjoyed learning new cultures and it has been fascinating to discuss the differences between our clinical practices.”

Pacific Partnership 16 also includes participants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Timor Leste, Malaysia, Singapore, Republic of Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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