Timor-Leste remains in the grip of diseases of poverty such as tuberculosis, rheumatic heart disease and malnutrition. Since 2002, the number of doctors has increased from just 26 up to almost 1000. But this surge of Cuban-trained graduates has created a huge need for further training and clinical supervision. Additionally, the resourcing and health systems are yet to be developed to support this workforce, with most health centres still lacking basic diagnostics and essential medicines and, in some cases, reliable electricity and running water.

Urgent action is needed to provide clinical leadership and further training to these new graduates so they can face the many health challenges of their nation.

Maluk Timor is addressing this challenge from a number of angles.

Our four Australian-trained rural GPs are delivering the Family Medicine training in partnership with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). Through this program we have been able to train Timor-Leste’s first recognised GPs, or Family Medicine Physicians.

The hope is that these GPs will become leaders in their health centres, raising the standard of care and taking best practice principles to all corners of the country.

In 2018 our 7 graduates had a 100% pass rate and significantly higher exit scores than their two basic training years. They are now serving their communities throughout the country.

Additionally, Maluk Timor has equipped a number of doctors with bags of medical equipment and consumables for use in remote districts. This is a short-term solution to a big problem, but it’s hard to practice as an effective doctor without the basic tools of the trade.

We have established an online forum to provide doctors with the most to up-to-date national protocols, handbooks and guidelines as well as providing a safe place for collegial support and confidential case discussion. Now, we aspire to spark the formation of a Medical Society for Timorese doctors to support their ongoing professional development.

We look forward to a future in which the champions of Timorese health can inspire the entire medical workforce in the pursuit of excellence, demanding higher clinical standards and better outcomes for their patients.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Family Medicine is supported by the Australian Government and implemented by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

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