The History of the Mother Ignacia Clinic

The Mother Ignacia Clinic is a joint venture between Dr David O’Rourke and his wife Sue-Ann O’Rourke, The Flinders Overseas Health Group (FOHG)  and an order of Catholic Sisters, The Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM).

The Mother Ignacia Clinic was officially opened on the 11th June 2016 in Soe, West Timor, Nusa Tengara Timur (NTT) , Indonesia.

The opening was conducted by the Bishop of Kupang, representatives of the government and  local health ministry, dignitaries, representatives of FOHG, clinic staff and over one thousand local residents of Soe.  (See www.fohg.com.au)

The Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) is a Catholic order of nuns, founded in 1684 in Manilla, Phillipines, by a lay woman called Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo.  The name of the clinic being the Mother Ignacia Clinic, a reference to their founder.

The RVM sisters are involved in educational, retreat, dormitory, and social ministries  and are  present in Italy, Taiwan, Pakistan, USA, Canada, Ghana West Africa and in Indonesia since 1988 beginning in Kupang, West Timor NTT.  Helping poor and disadvantaged people is their mission.

(See www.rvmonline.com)

The Flinders Overseas Health Group (FOHG) was founded in 2007, in Adelaide, Australia by a group of people who wish to essentially remain anonymous.  Drawing upon their collective professional, personal and community experiences they were able to form a group to help better the health of disadvantaged through education.

FOHG’s mission statement is to aim for Sustainable Health Through Education,  providing health education to  health stakeholders,  transfer of knowledge and skills to improve health outcomes.

FOHG’s educational activities occur in  the Eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tengara Timur (NTT) which includes West Timor.  The status normal in this region  is poverty, malnutrition, limited education and a very under resourced health system.

FOHG conducts education visits across the following health disciplines:  Maternal and neonatal health, accident and emergency, oncology, dermatology, infectious diseases, pathology and microbiology.  FOHG works with local partners to deliver educational outcomes, on the basis that health improvements arrive through education.  The health partners range from provincial clinics, local clinics, Indonesian educational facilities through to individuals who provide patient services care directly at the frontline of healthcare provision.

FOHG relies on volunteers and benefactors who self fund the cost of their visits, give their time for free and  receives no government assistance for the programs they have developed

(See  www.fohg.com.au)

Dr David O’Rourke MB BS FRACGP FARGP FRANZCOG MRMed MWomHMed is a specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist located in Canberra working in both public and private sectors.  Areas of clinical practice are obstetrics, gynaecology with special interest in keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery and fertility including IVF management.  David was originally a rural general practitioner in NSW Australia with procedural skills in anaesthetics and obstetrics and followed this course for a few years before pursuing specialist training through Canberra (2003 – 2006) and Adelaide (2007-2008).

In 2007, a chance meeting between David and Dr Peter Riddle,  a Plastic and Reconstructive and  General Surgeon occurred.  Dr Riddle, having a long association with clinical work in Keffamenanu (West Timor) as well as being a member of FOHG, convinced David to become involved, on the basis of the desire and need for a Maternal and Neonatal health program  in this area.  David was involved in  clinical and educational trips to Ende (Flores) in 2009 and Keffamenanu (NTT)  in 2010 under the FOHG banner.

David returned from these trips, with a staggering view of the disparity between the world he worked and lived in compared to life where he had just  briefly visited.   David met Sr Yasinata Hoar (RVM) who was the Mother Superior of RVM in Indonesia at this time and she discussed with him the  long term desire to build a maternity clinic in a town called Soe, West Timor.  The theme of disparity and the birthing clinic stayed in his mind.

Sr Yasinta RVM and Sister Rosalind RVM had previously, over many years raised the issue of high mortality rate for mothers and infants in West Timor as a result poor family structure, poverty, poor transport and inadequate facilities.

As a result the majority of women giving birth had to rely upon traditional birth attendants (not qualified and unusual beliefs) or no care, and  deliver in their own home in villages often without any antenatal care, intrapartum supervision or postnatal care.  The survival of mothers and babies was reliant on nature and statistics, call it luck, very different to the interventions and technology present in our first world society.  Sr Yasinta and Sr Rosalind thought  that a birthing clinic for  antenatal care and delivery and postnatal care  would be the way to go.

David and his wife, Sue-Ann discussed these issues many times over, and in the preceeding 12 months (2013) had  just had their 3rd and 4th children, identical twin boys.  Their  twin pregnancy was uncomplicated but still plentiful of antenatal care visits , multiple ultrasounds, spinal anaesthesia, elective  caesarean section and  special care nursery for ten days for the new babies.  All provided under the supervision of  obstetrician, anaesthetist, paediatrician and midwifery and nursing staff.  All this is routine and taken for granted in Australia, and the disparity of this and maternity care in West Timor (and many other parts of the world) is strikingly obvious.  Building and running a clinic or health facility would require money, contacts in the target area and expertise.  Money goes a long way in West Timor compared to Australia.

David and Sue-Ann finally made the decision to help out  and in 2014 visited Adelaide to speak to the then Chair of FOHG, Mr Andrew Love who was also  a foundation member of the organisation and very cognisant of the issues and desires over time.  David and Sue-Ann’s offer was to provide the money to build the project, if FOHG would help out with the organisational side of things given their contacts and history in the area and the links with the RVM sisters.  Before this meeting David had contacted Sr Yasinta  (Mother Superior) and she gave her approval to begin the process

The offer was discussed accepted by the  FOHG committee.  From this point David and Sue Ann O’Rourke, FOHG ( in particular FOHG members Mr Andrew Love and Mr Richard Turnbull), RVM sisters,  (especially Sr Yasinta),  set about the long journey involved.  The O’Rourke’s provided the funds, RVM  provided the land and FOHG along with  everyone was involved with plans, politics, and dealing with authorities over what was a long and tenuous process, with the boundaries constantly changeing.  Eventually, an advisory Board was formed,  a project manager, Mr Ted Burke (based in Kupang, West Timor) was employed, a designer and builder engaged and eventually the construction of the  25 bed clinic started.  A foundation stone ceremony (May 2015) was held in Soe to recognise the start of the project and the clinic was opened 11th June 2016.  The facility is owned and operated by RVM, all aspects having been donated to RVM

During the initial construction phase, the advisory board of the clinic, raised the concept of building a Class D Clinic, which if fully operational would mean that the Indonesian Government would support the clinic financially, through its BPJS scheme.  (Similar to Medicare in Australia)

A class D clinic would allow the facility in the future to become self sustaining, self funding and rely less on donations which it now does.  A class D facility means certain government requirements, now have to be met, more building, more procedures, more requirements.

At the moment the Mother Ignacia Clinic is operational, receiving inpatient and maternity admission, dental clinic as well as outpatients.

A dedicated antenatal clinic and birth sponsor program (“One Birth at a Time”) is  now operational.

FOHG recently donated an ultrasound machine to the Muder Ignacia Clinic.

An ambulance has been donated and much local support is present in this facility.

Staff are currently working at less than award wage in order to support and develop the facility.

At the present time, an Architect has been engaged to develop  plans and gain approvals  to expand the clinic to a 50 bed facility with operating theatre, high care unit and other facilities so the  Clinic will be a Class D general clinic and qualify for the BPJS Funding  The qualification of the Mother Ignacia Clinic for government funding, aims for self sustainability and less reliance upon local and international donations as is currently the case.

The eventual aim is for the Mother Ignacia Clinic to be a self sustained health facility with 25 beds for general admissions and 25 beds for Maternity admissions.  A centre for clinical activity to benefit the poor people of Soe  as well as a facility for visiting teams from Australia to visit and deliver educational programs that will achieve sustainable health through education.