Creating a retirement dream on the other side of the world – AusHEAL
“Making AusHEAL a reality… creating a retirement dream.”
When picturing retirement, do you envisage spending months on end in a war-torn, poverty-stricken country helping strangers create some sort of normality again? Many would say, “NO!”, but that is exactly what Neil and Gwen Wetzig have been picturing for years. That picture is now a reality.
Neil Wetzig worked as a surgeon in Brisbane for over 25 years, specialising in breast cancer and endocrinology – a successful career filled with helping everyday Australians survive a cancer prognosis, credited with establishing the first surgical clinical trial for breast cancer in Australia. Many may believe that after so many years of tireless hours, early mornings and late nights, the Wetzigs would choose a relaxing retirement. But right now, instead of relaxing by a beach, travelling the world or playing golf, Neil and his wife, Gwen, are in Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, spending their days performing surgeries, educating local medical staff and supporting the community.
Goma and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Despite the signing of peace treaties following the Second Congo War well over a decade ago, the unrest is still patent on the streets of Goma.
The Second Congo War was the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, but the vast majority of its 6 million casualties were not the result of direct combat. Rather, they were caused by preventable diseases such as malaria, malnutrition and pneumonia as a consequence of unsanitary living conditions, a lack of clean water and basic medical care. Forty-seven percent of the deaths were children under the age of five.
Life expectancy in the Congo is about 48 years, compared to 84 years in Australia. With extremely high rates of infant, child and maternal mortality, there are only 11 doctors and 80 hospital beds for every 100,000 people.
A chance meeting reshaped the future
In an impromptu presentation, Neil met Dr Jo Lusi, an orthopaedic surgeon from HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma, who was visiting Brisbane in 2002. Dr Lusi ignited a passion in Neil’s spirit that has continued to this day – a passion to help those in need. Neil and Gwen soon began to travel to the Congo annually to perform goitre and other life-saving surgeries that would otherwise have been completely unavailable to the Congolese people.
Making the vision a reality
For over 20 years, Neil and Gwen entrusted James Morris, Modoras Accounting Director, with both their business and personal accounting affairs. James played a key role in their business and personal success. From tax planning, superannuation arrangements, business advisory, asset protection and corporate structuring to managing the risks associated with running a medical practice, Neil was able to focus on supporting his patients and their families knowing everything was being taken care of. Meanwhile James was implementing advice designed to create a solid foundation which has enabled Neil and Gwen to tax effectively continue their charitable work in retirement.
Through AusHEAL, the Wetzigs partner with the HEAL Africa Hospital to offer the people in Goma high-quality healthcare. Neil and Gwen do this, not only by going to the city and offering hands-on services, but also by offering numerous training opportunities for local medical staff, helping them to develop their infrastructures to work more efficiently. While here in Australia, they continue advocating for the medical needs in the Congo. When at home, the Wetzigs work tirelessly to build, prepare and train teams of nurses, surgeons and specialists who will join them on their future ventures into the heart of Africa.
HEAL Africa and AusHEAL
In fact, HEAL Africa in Goma is one of only three hospitals in the entire country that offers full services, including orthopaedics, obstetrics, gynaecology, paediatrics, internal medicine and general surgery. It also provides emergency care for gunshot wounds and other injuries, laboratory and diagnostic services as well as dentistry.
Through AusHEAL, the Wetzigs contribute to this crucial facility with their time, energy and resources. Through August to mid September this year, they led three teams of Australian professionals, including:
- A dentist
- A maxillofacial surgeon
- A physiotherapist
- An anaesthetist
- An anaesthetic nurse
- An obstetrician/gynaecologist
- Numerous RNs of different specialisations (recovery, theatre/sterilising, emergency/ICU and midwife)
- A junior doctor / GP trainee
- A radiologist
- A radiographer/sonographer
- A cardiologist
- An emergency physician
- An education consultant
Some results of these trips included:
- The obstetrician/gynaecologist, who was only in Goma for one week, conducted screenings for cervical cancer. In just one day she was able to conduct the procedure for 108 ladies!
- The dentist and maxillofacial surgeon were able to treat facial tumours and cleft palates.
- The midwife conducted a training session on the use of CTG monitoring during labour.
- The nursing team taught an educational session on resuscitation.
- The cardiologist performed echo-cardiograms and ECGs.
- The emergency physician taught a session on pelvic fractures, penetrating neck wounds and resuscitation.
- The educational consultant helped medical team volunteers to communicate more effectively in this cross-cultural context, not only with their patients, but also with the Congolese professionals who were observing the team members every step of the way.
Another highlight was the Training Workshop presented by AusHEAL team members and attended by over 100 staff from HEAL Africa and other surrounding hospitals. This year’s theme was ‘Being Organised’. During the presentation, key logistical concepts were discussed, such as controlling costs of medications and laboratory needs, rostering and being punctual.
Thanks to the Wetzigs’ ongoing relationship with James Morris and Modoras, they are able to ensure the continuity of such important ventures. When they return to Brisbane, they will continue to advocate for the needs of the people in and around Goma, and their stories will continue to inspire more Australian professionals to take an active role in helping the needy, whether at home or in a distant land.
At Modoras, we help clients not only achieve their goals, but often to accomplish things they never thought possible. Whether that be a new business venture, being able to retire early or following a philanthropic vision, we are proud to be part of this amazing accomplishment.
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