A team of Australian Defence Force (ADF) medical specialists have deployed to Vietnam for the final phase of Exercise Pacific Partnership 2017—the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Navy Nursing Officer Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko tends to a Vietnamese patient at the Emergency Reception at Da Nang General Hospital during Exercise Pacific Partnership 2017. Photo by Sergeant Ray Vance.
For three weeks, Australian medical and nursing officers, together with others from the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, will work alongside Vietnamese civilian and military medical personnel as part of the US-led mission.
Australian Contingent Commander and Royal Australian Navy Nursing Officer Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko said her team was integrating well into the local hospitals.
“Despite the language barrier, and the need to work through interpreters, we are already building really strong working-relationships with the doctors and nurses at Da Nang General Hospital, and with the medical personnel from all the nations participating in Pacific Partnership 2017,” Lieutenant Commander Zilko said.
“The hospital staff have made us feel very welcome and this has paved the way for us to share information and experience, and understand the differences in how we treat patients.
“This relationship will be incredibly valuable if we are called on to provide a joint response to a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief mission in our region, where natural disasters are an unfortunate and unpredictable part of life.”
As well as working in the local civilian and military hospitals, the Australian contingent will conduct medical lectures to share their knowledge; visit local schools and community groups; and take part in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response exercises, to test their interoperability with other participating nations.
Exercise Pacific Partnership aims to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters, as well as to enhance regional security and stability.
“Exercise Pacific Partnership originated from the multi-national response to the 2004 tsunami in Banda Aceh and Australia has participated in every iteration of this annual exercise, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to building regional capacity in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and regional security,” Lieutenant Commander Zilko said.
“Australia’s participation in Exercise Pacific Partnership 2017 provides us with a vital opportunity to confirm that we remain ready to respond, with our allies, if and when our regional neighbours need our help.
“This Vietnam phase of the exercise also allows us to continue building strong, lasting and respectful relationships with the government and defence forces of Vietnam.”
The Australian contingent will remain in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang until 17 May, and will then move north to Nha Trang, the final port visit of Exercise Pacific Partnership 2017.
The ADF also participated in Exercise Pacific Partnership missions in Malaysia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka this year.