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Doc’s gift to Zambia

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Dr Mark Hanley prepares to consign medical supplies to the school. Photo: Supplied
Dr Mark Hanley prepares to consign medical supplies to the school. Photo: Supplied

A Sydney GP is helping build desperately-needed healthcare on the other side of the world

St Kevin’s Eastwood parishioner Dr Mark Hanley has helped forge a partnership between Catholic health and education organisations a world apart to serve the poorest of the poor in eastern Zambia.

The African country with a population of 18 million is seriously short of healthcare professionals. In the Eastern Province city Chipata, the country’s poorest province there are only 36 doctors for a population of more than 1.5 million.

Access to training for nurses, midwives, doctors and public health officers is extremely limited.

“Following a visit by Fr Jacob Zulu, a priest of the Chipata diocese, to Sydney in 2018 Dr Hanley became aware of the tremendous need … of opening a Catholic nursing school for young people in Eastern Zambia.”

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The only hospital in the whole district is the 170-bed St Joseph’s Province Hospital in Lumezi, with the trailblazing religious Sister Mary Gemma the sole surgeon for around 170,000 people.

Her four fellow religious are the hospital’s doctor, director, nursing unit manager and paediatrician.

Following a visit by Fr Jacob Zulu, a priest of the Chipata diocese, to Sydney in 2018 Dr Hanley became aware of the tremendous need and its bishop’s dream of opening a Catholic nursing school for young people in Eastern Zambia.

Dr Mark Hanley and Sister Mary Gemma form part of a medical partnership which has resulted in the establishment of a nursing school in eastern Zambia. Photo: Supplied
Dr Mark Hanley and Sister Mary Gemma form part of a medical partnership which has resulted in the establishment of a nursing school in eastern Zambia. Photo: Supplied

A year later that dream was realised, with Bishop George Lungu opening the St Joseph Lumezi Nursing College with almost 100 students; today it boasts nearly 300 students and a dozen staff.

The GP who is also a lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia has gained the support of his university, The Cardoner Project, Calvary Ryde Residential Aged Care Facility and the Australian Catholic Medical Association to provide much-needed equipment and funds for St Joseph Lumezi Nursing School and Provincial Hospital.

UNDA has been supporting the ongoing establishment and development of the school through donations of textbooks, equipment and direct funds. This month the largest single donation will be sent from Sydney, a shipping container full of hospital beds and other essential items.

“A Catholic-run high school for the district now has many of its senior school students dreaming of studying nursing …”

The next goal is to help Bishop Lungu and Fr Zulu establish a Catholic university centred on the St Joseph Lumenzi Hospital campus.

“A Catholic-run high school for the district now has many of its senior school students dreaming of studying nursing, and for the very brightest and most dedicated this is now becoming a possibility,” said Dr Hanley.

“Watching these women and their generous and unwavering faith in action now, it is no surprise to learn that some of the giant flagship hospitals of Australia, known internationally as centres for excellence and research, were originally started with the dedication of Catholic nuns like Sr Mary Jemma.”

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