Clockwise from left: Dr. Bernard Whitfield with Assoc. Professor ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu (Minister of Health) during World Hearing Day 2020; Dr. Lopati (second from left) with ENT staff members and Dr Bernard Whitfield; Dr Lopati (right) and research supervisor Prof. Stephen O’Leary (left) during the ear and hearing health screening of primary school children in Tonga.

The Eisdell Moore Centre works with colleagues in the Pacific region to support to development of Ear and Hearing Care services in the region.  We will be featuring the work that is going on in various Pacific Island Countries over the next few months, including research and service development.  EMC member Dr Sepiuta Lopati, an ENT from Tonga, has provided the following update:

The Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) department in Tonga was established in 1987 by Consultant Specialist and Head of Department Dr. Leiukamea Saafi. Currently, the entire population of Tonga (over 100,000 people) receive all primary and secondary ear and hearing health services from Vaiola Hospital on the main island of Tongatapu.  

The ENT department is currently staffed by Dr. Sione Folau and Dr. Pe’ofa Tigarea, graduates from Fiji National University.   A volunteer Audiologist from New Zealand Mr. Philip Luey has recently started working at the clinic two days per week to assist with the development of the new audiology service. 

The 30-year-old hospital operating microscope was finally replaced this year through a kind donation from Logan Hospital in Queensland arranged by Dr. Bernard Whitfield with shipping costs funded by Royal Australian College of Surgeons.  For the first time, Tonga celebrated World Hearing Day on the 3rd of March this year, during which this new equipment was presented to the clinic by Dr Whitfield.   In November 2020, Dr. Leiukamea Saafi led a local visiting team to the island of Vava’u to conduct outpatient clinics and surgeries for the local community.

Dr. Sepiuta Lopati has recently completed her Master of Surgery by Research which was on the prevalence of ear disease and hearing loss amongst primary school children in Tonga. Results reveal a high prevalence of wax and otitis media with both contributing to hearing losses in this population.  Dr. Lopati would like this research to be the catalyst to the introduction of a national screening program for primary school children, the development of training for ENT doctors, nurses and an audiologist, and to establish the first audiology unit in Tonga.