By ELLEN TIAMU
DAISUKE Matsumoto is a JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) volunteer, who works at Manus provincial hospital as a physical therapist.
His job entails massaging a patient’s body to improve its function, checking on arthritis patients’ joints and muscles and trying to promote and improve body functions of those who have problems moving parts of their body. Patients are also advised on how to care for themselves daily.
The 30-year-old from Osaka, west of Tokyo, came to PNG last January. He graduated from Aino University of Osaka in March of 2009. Before venturing to PNG, he worked in hospital in Japan for more than five years.
The physiotherapy- rehabilitation- department of the hospital he worked at had a total of 120 staff including occupational therapists and speech therapists. Matsumoto was the leader of the department.
His work on Manus began in February last year. He had learnt about the job through the JICA office in Port Moresby. The Manus Provincial Hospital had forwarded a request form (contents of the work, the condition, location and outline of dispatched place, etc) to the JICA office which then posted it on its website.
Candidates, Matsumoto included, applied through JICA and took an examination.
Matsumoto finds PNG, especially Manus where he has lived for much of his stay here, an interesting place. But the culture of laziness and non-commitment to duties and not keeping up to promises are things he views as drawbacks for progress.
“Papua New Guineans often say, ok, don’t worry. I’ll do it and very often forget or don’t do it.”
For this Japanese man, high work ethics and values are an important part of his life and to be in a place or be working with people who don’t share the same values can be somewhat frustrating. His initial reaction on seeing Manus was that it was a beautiful, idyllic island that was sadly lacking in hygiene. He says the attitude of throwing rubbish everywhere, anywhere must change soon.
“If this situation continues, it will cause dirty sea and air pollution some day. We, Japanese, don’t throw away rubbish because the rubbish such as plastic and cans on the road cannot return to soil. But here, they do it though they know it`s very bad.”
Matsumoto’s contract will be up in four months and he returns to Japan. But the one thing that he’d like to see happen in Manus is that people learn to take proper care of their homes and town.
“That’s why we, JICA volunteers, started to clean up Lorengau on every first Wednesday of the month for 45 minutes from 3pm. It’s been one year and six months since we started but the town is still dirty. Manusians haven’t changed their minds yet. We will go back to Japan after our contracts are over. It`s not for us, for Manusian. We hope they make the town clean every day.”
It is not hard to see where Matsumoto and his friends are coming from. There is hardly any rubbish lying anywhere in the cities of Japan. Even rubbish bins cannot be found out in the open.
The number of patients that see him varies according to the number of referrals by doctors.
“Sometimes, I request consultation form positively when I found and judged patients need physiotherapy.”
Matsumoto’s work at Manus is definitely less hectic than his previous one in Japan. Last year 86 patients were referred to him by the doctors. He not only waits for patients to come through the doors but makes home visits and checks on health centers around the province. His patients range from babies to the elderly.
“In Manus, the greatest number of amputees or would-be amputees suffer from diabetes. The second is infection or a car accident.”
The attitude of patients is a cause for consternation for him especially when he asks for them to return the following week and they don’t. He finds this attitude very impolite.
He says many more patients can be helped if only they came to the hospital earlier. Prevention, he said, is better than cure.
There is a limit to what therapy can bring for many patients and in order to help them live a better life, Matsumoto believes the answer lies in enabling more of them to have access to prosthesis, braces, crutches and wheelchairs.
“Now, I`m planning a project to supply prostheses with amputees and gather more amputees on Manus considering that it is too expensive for an ordinary person in Manus to travel to Port Moresby or Lae to purchase a crutch or wheelchair.”
The idea to help amputees came to him last year when a patient asked him for a prosthesis.
He told the man that he didn’t have any, but he pondered over that conversation for days after that. He later found out from the JICA volunteer coordinator in Port Moresby that the National Orthotic and Prosthetic Services, NOPS, did.
A few months later, Matsumoto was in Port Moresby for a meeting with NOPs and met Almah Kuambu, a technical officer with NOPS. She agreed for NOPS to make special types of equipment such as a neck stable typed wheelchair, a reclining typed wheelchair and a lofstrand crutch (equipment that are used by wrist-muscles weakness patients, paralysed patients or spinal cord injury patients in Japan.)
Callan Services in Manus has latched onto the project and there is a lot of support from different organisations, businesses and individuals in Manus.
Matsumoto is currently the only physiotherapist on Manus. His term expires at the end of this year and his main concern is who will pick up from where he leaves. He hopes to have a replacement at the hospital before he leaves Manus.
He has a final word about life-style disease including diabetes.
“Aerobic exercise and changing life-style can prevent various diseases. You should do any exercise over 30 minutes, over three times per week.
“A load of aerobic exercise is to feel a little bit hard or sweat a little. You should rethink the intake of sugar, salt and fat for your health. Only yourself can protect your health, and also determine your future.”
Matsumoto finds the food on Manus different.
“Some foods don’t have much taste. But some foods have too much taste.
People are also still consuming coffee with a lot of sugar although they are told that it causes diabetes. For most of the people, he says, there is no sense of crisis.
But has he tried some local food? “Of course. We should try to eat some local food to understand PNG culture.
“I have already eaten saksak banana, smoked fish, aigir from Kokopo, mumu from Mount Hagen, sago and sago worm (grub) in PNG local food.
“I would like to try to eat a bat, a cuscus for my experience before I go back to Japan.”
Is there anything you missed about Japan, I asked.
“I want to eat food with Japanese tastes,’ was his reply.
By ELLEN TIAMU