Working in a Hospital in Solomon Islands
The National Referral Hospital (NRH, also called
Central Hospital or Number Nine) in Honiara with 300 to 400
beds is the largest hospital in Solomon Islands.
On 02 July 2012, NRH had a total of 50 doctors (nine of them
still doing their practical).
Photo H. Oberli
NRH has the following departments:
Accidents and Emergencies
Staffed by 2 doctors in July 2012
2007: 45,147 patients turning up at A&E
2008: 55,234 patients turning up at A&E
|Triage categories at
- General Surgery
2003: 70 beds, adults and children (including Orthopedics)
2008: 1,971 patients were operated on; 80% was emergency
surgery and only 20% elective surgery, however, 5,000
patients were booked for elective surgery in the same time
- Gynecology and Obstetrics
about 3000 to 4000 deliveries with approx. 100 cesarean
sections per year
two neonatal wards: one for healthy and one for sick
January - June 2009: 3,508 admissions to the postnatal
- Internal Medicine
2001: 53 beds, 750 patients, average stay 10.2 days
chest infection, TB, malaria, neurological cases: spinal
lesions, old polio (few), leprosy (few), meningitis mostly
most frequent cases: fractures
2009: 35 to 39 beds and between 20 and 50 patients per
ratio adults to children about 10:1
- Occupational therapy
- Prosthetics and orthotics workshop
- Workshop for adaptive equipment (wheel chairs,
- Provincial Hospitals do not have specialized departments:
everybody does everything.
- Size: between 20 and 160 beds.
- Flying distance from Honiara: one to three hours.
Location of provincial hospitals:
- Central Province: Tulagi
Staff in August 2010: 1 doctor, 7 registered nurses and 6
- Choiseul: Taro
- Guadalcanal: NRH
- Honiara City: NRH
- Isabel: Buala
- Makira Ulawa: Kirakira,
- Malaita: Kilu'ufi (which
is also the National Psychiatric Unit, and located near
- Rennell-Bellona: no hospital; Tingoa Clinic on Rennell,
the only clinic on Bellona, the Nuku Clinic was closed in
2002 (and is still closed in 2004)
Note: a clinic in Solomon Islands is not a
hospital, and is usually run by experienced nurses,
not by doctors.
- Temotu: Lata
- Western Province: Gizo
Administered by other organizations:
- Choiseul: Sasamuqa (also Sasamunga or Sasamungga), 32
beds (United Church)
- Guadalcanal: Tetere: Good Samaritan Hospital (built by Don Bosco International)
- Malaita: Atoifi, 80 beds
(Seventh-day Adventist Church)
- Western Province: Munda: Helena Goldie Hospital, 55
beds (United Church)
Before you apply:
Who can apply?
- Doctors (registrars and specialists)
- Medical students in their elective year
- Nurses (m/f), midwives, if capable of teaching
- Physiotherapists, capable of
teaching others. Occasionally there is a shortage of
physiotherapists. The local physiotherapists are quite well
trained, you need an advanced knowledge and/or a lot of
experience to be able to teach them something.
- Ergotherapists (mostly for adults)
- Medical laboratory technicians
The official language in Solomon Islands is English.
Always use English when writing to hospitals or government
officials in Solomon Islands.
There is no general shortage of manpower in Solomon Islands,
but there is a shortage of well trained and skilled
professionals who can help solve problems and train locals.
When passing on your knowledge and expertise, keep in mind
that nobody likes to be patronized and there is almost always
more than one way to do things right and successfully (and this
Albert Schweitzer wrote in his book "On
the Edge of the Primeval Forest" (Chapter 7, Social problems in
"We should accept, but try to improve and refine, the rights
and customs, and make no alterations which are not absolutely
What he said about Africa is valid for other countries,
including Solomon Islands, too.
- an open mind
You should be able to easily adapt to new, unfamiliar
situations in a different culture in order to avoid
This is absolutely essential, coming here with unrealistic
expectations will just cause a lot of frustration for all
parties involved. Read Dr. Oberli's "A week in paradise" and reports from others who worked in
Solomon Islands. Read what people write about Honiara. If you understand German,
read Christian Himmelberger's
report. Have a look at our News
section and read what foreign
ministries say about Solomon Islands. Take it with a
grain of salt, but if it scares you off, you are probably
better off looking for a different place to work.
be ready to accept all kind of shortcomings, and to
Solomon Islands is a beautiful country inhabited by
basically very friendly and pleasant-natured Melanesians
and Polynesians. But it is in a very difficult economic
situation caused by a two-year ethnic unrest and for all
practical purposes bankrupt. Solomon Islands Health
Services are only kept going by massive foreign (mostly
The transition from traditional life to the 21st century
in this country was a step taking place during World War
II, not a smooth transition.
Technology is available, but does not necessarily
Water, electricity, telephone, gasoline, etc. cannot be
taken for granted and assumed to be available
- to appreciate the social and professional medical
context of a poor developing country
good knowledge of English is essential if you want
to work in Solomon Islands.
For medical professionals a good knowledge of English
medical terminology and its many abbreviations is very
important. If you are not truly familiar with medical
English, a book about medical
English is a must, just a dictionary is not enough!
Quick check: is your knowledge of English good
enough for a job in a UK or US hospital? If not, it's not
good enough for a job in a Solomon Islands hospital
- some knowledge of pidgin English would be an asset
but is not required. See our books list for a dictionary. By the way,
don't fool yourself: pidgin (or pijin in Solomon Islands)
English is not simply baby talk English! Read chapter 13 of
Jack London's The Cruise of the
Snark (available on the internet) for an interesting
|(© 2004 V. Gisler)
||(© 2004 A. Brand)
Minimum duration of stay:
Two months, preferably three or more
- Only for students and registrars at NRH: the Jubilee House (not for free)
- Hotels are expensive
- Guest/Rest Houses
usually with shared usage of the kitchen and access to a
washing container outside to do your laundry
- Private accommodation
- Expats are often looking for house sitters while they are
Check the Answers to our
Questionnaire for prices.
- In the Jubilee House and in many guest/rest houses you
have access to kitchen facilities.
- There are markets where you can buy vegetables, fruit,
- The hospital cafeteria serves simple meals.
- Inexpensive food is also available in Honiara's
Chinatown, which is near the hospital.
Check the Answers to our
Questionnaire for prices.
Friends, Partners, Family, and Visitors:
Your friend wants to work in the hospital, too.
This is possible, however, we strongly recommend you work in
different departments, especially if your mother tongue is not
English. This will force you to use English all the time and
your immersion in the different culture will be better.
Your partner/family wants to accompany you.
Your partner/family should consider:
- A good knowledge of English is essential.
- Accommodation: the Jubilee House is strictly for students
and registrars, so you have to find another accommodation
(see above). But if there is room in the Jubilee House your
partner is expected to live there, so he or she is available
in emergency cases. In other words, you will end up living
- Occupation: your partner will be very busy at the
hospital and not able to take care of you during the working
hours (which may include weekends). You will hardly find a
highly interesting occupation, if any at all, and if you do,
you will probably have more spare time than your partner.
Whether you can find an occupation depends on your skills and
- Transportation: bus service in Honiara is only available
along main roads, but your accommodation and/or your
occupation may not be near a main road and you might have to
walk considerable distances.
- Life ain't easy in Honiara: Honiara often suffers from
power outages and water shortages, which does not make life
- Spare time: in your spare time there is not much you can
do in Honiara. Beach activities are only possible at a few
selected places. Public swimming pools or similar options are
not available. Flights to other islands are expensive and
schedules cannot be relied on.
- Read what people write about Honiara.
- Schools: schools in Honiara are good, internationally
recognized, but expensive
Conclusion: make sure, you know what you are getting
yourself into. Read reports by
Someone wants to visit you while you are in Solomon
Visitors, with whom you want to travel, should not arrive
while you are working at the hospital, especially if you are
here for just two or three months. You cannot simply adjust
your working hours to suit your visitor(s). Keep vacation
and work separate: do your traveling before you start
working or better at the end of your stay.
Specific additional information
Contacting the hospital
Contact us, if you have general
questions or want to contact a provincial hospital.
Do not expect immediate replies.
Communication with hospitals is often difficult. Answers may
take several days to weeks. Eventually, you may have to resend
your e-mail or fax, but please wait at least two weeks before
Send simple text e-mails, try to avoid
attachments, i.e. instead of attaching your CV, just block the
text and copy and paste it into your mail (and clean it up a
bit, if necessary). If attachments are necessary, only use
pdf files or Word doc files, not the
latest Word docx or other file types, please.
(docx files produced by Office/Word are not backwards
compatible and cannot be read with earlier Office Word
programs. Downloading tens of megabytes to get the latest Word
Viewer is not an option for hospitals using slow and unreliable
NRH contact details:
E-Mail contact us for
Fax (to back up e-mail or if e-mail is not available;
the fax machine does not always work, so keep on trying):
+677 24 243
Add "Attn [name or title of the person you are addressing]" to
the fax header.
Include a fax number, an e-mail address and a postal mail
address to reply to.
+677 23600 (time zone: GMT + 11 hours, no
daylight saving time)
More phone numbers can be found on
Solomon Telekom's Telephone Directory.
Mail address (mail is only recommended if all else
fails, it is slow and unreliable, it may take months or never
National Referral Hospital
PO Box 349
Travel documents required:
For passport and visa requirements see
Immigration Requirements on the Government web site and
Information on the Solomon Airlines web
Note: A stopover in Australia may require a visa
for Australia: check with your travel agent or use Travel
Information on the Solomon Airlines web
If you are going to work at NRH:
Once everything has been sorted out and you have been
accepted, let the Hospital Secretary know your passport
number, flight number, date and time of arrival, flight
number, date and time of departure together with relevant
details of your acceptance. See above for contact information.
This should be done no later than three weeks before
your arrival, and don't forget to keep the recipient
up-to-date, in case there are any changes in your arrival
With some luck, somebody will pick you up at the
Bring along any working permit and visa or confirmation
thereof you have received, and at least a (printed) copy of
your acceptance e-mail, fax or letter.
If you are having a problem with immigration officials:
just ask for an ordinary tourist visa and tell them you
would sort it out. Then give your papers and passport to
the Hospital Secretary and let him/her do the
administrative work. Once you are in Honiara, you will soon
find out more about "organization" in the Solomons.
NRH's information sheet for students says:
You are permitted to stay in the Solomon Islands for
a period of up to 12 weeks, and the visa will be issued at
the Airport. If you wish to remain here longer than this,
you must personally apply to:-
Director of Immigration
- Immigration Division
Ministry of Commerce, Employment & Tourism
P O Box G26
- SOLOMON ISLANDS
Telephone: +677 28841
You must do this 4 months before you wish to come. A
Police Clearance Certificate and a character reference from
the Dean of your Medical School should accompany the
request. The payment of SBD 60.00 for students permit plus
the additional conversion fee of SBD 275.00 are also
required. All these must be sent to the above address,
especially for those who wish to remain in the country
beyond the specified period of 12 weeks.
Links to Travel
Observe WHO recommendations
and travel medicine advice
polio, tetanus, measles, hepatitis A and B are a
yellow fever: not necessary (unless you arrive from a country
where yellow fever is endemic).
Falciparum and vivax are endemic.
Incidence very variable, in Honiara (at the beginning of
2000): 400/1000 inhabitants
Lariam (Mefloquine 250mg/week) or Doxycycline 100 mg
No prophylaxis will give you 100% protection except not
being bitten by a mosquito! Bring along enough insect
repellent (Antibrumm forte works well) and use it. Use a
mosquito net. In case of the slightest suspicion, get a MPS
(malaria-plasmodium-slide) test, and if positive, start
NRH's student information sheet says:
MALARIA PROPHYLAXIS: (As advised by Medical Authorities
and WHO here in Solomon Islands.)
The options are:-
Chloroquine 300mgs (2 tablets) weekly
Proguanil (Paludrine) 100mgs (1 tablet) daily
A combination of the 2 drugs may be recommended in
certain areas. Please bring a supply of all drugs which you
need with you.
A travel insurance covering (at least) medical expenses and
loss (theft) of baggage is highly recommended.
A professional malpractice (liability) insurance is not
required. The hospital is insured.
Items to bring along
If you want to bring along something useful for the hospital
here is a list of welcome
Flying to Honiara
You can fly to Honiara International Airport - Henderson
Field (previous name: Henderson International Airport; code
- Brisbane, Australia, with Solomon Airlines or Virgin
Australia (formerly Pacific Blue)
- Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, with Air Niugini
- Nadi, Fiji, with Air Pacific
- Port Vila, Vanuatu, with Air Vanuatu or Solomon
Mains voltage in Solomon Islands: 240V/50Hz (three-phase
Plugs used: Plug with flat prongs (as used in Australia). On
the left a view of the receptacle.
Currency: Solomon Dollar (SBD) 1$ = 100 cents
Coins: 2$, 1$, 50c, 20c, 10c
Notes: $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, $2
For exchange rates see our Travel Information links.
Banks accept Travellers Cheques in US$ and credit cards
(Visa and MasterCard/Eurocard). Note: cash withdrawal using
your credit card is probably more expensive than cashing
Travellers Cheques. Ask your bank.
There are automatic teller machines (ATMs) in Honiara and
Auki, where e.g. Swiss bank cards can be used to get cash.
Again, ask your bank if your card will work abroad and what
fees will be charged.
ANZ intends to install solar powered ATMs in Kirakira,
Tulagi, Buala, Taro, Lata and Munda after mid-2007.
Try to get some Solomon Dollars before your arrival,
especially if your flight arrives at night time or on a
weekend, but don't be surprised if you are not successful.
Don't change too much, exchange rates in Honiara are usually
better. If you can not get any Solomon Dollars, take along some
Australian Dollars in cash. Make sure you know the current
exchange rate which changes often.
Banks in Honiara are open from Monday to Friday 09.00 (9am)
to 15.00 (3pm).
Possible places to change money, if banks are closed, are
the Mendana Hotel or a casino, but the latter will charge stiff
Banks in Solomon Islands:
Note: this list may not be up-to-date, make sure
- free (for over 18-year olds): 200 cigarettes, or 250g
tobacco, or 250g cigars, 2 liters of wine/spirits
- no fruits and vegetables (except from New Zealand)
- no honey (for fear of spreading bee diseases; for quite
some time even Swiss Toblerone chocolate was (wrongfully)
confiscated, because it contains honey)
- no (unlicensed) weapons and ammunition
- no offensive literature, pictures, videotapes, CDs
- no drugs
Before leaving: check for an updated version of this
After your arrival
If nobody is picking you up: take a taxi or a bus to the
Where to report your arrival
Go to the administration or the switchboard (at Accidents
and Emergencies). If no one is around, ask a nurse or another
Hospital resources are scarce, please use them sparingly! If
you use something privately, refund it promptly. This applies
to things like telecommunications, transportation, Jubilee
House etc. Please follow your superior's instructions.
Women's clothing should cover thighs and knees, bare thighs
and knees are considered indecent in Melanesia. Please wear
skirts or pants long enough to cover your knees.
According to official directions, medical uniforms should be
worn in the hospital, but this was simply never observed by
doctors. Nurses are wearing white uniforms. Doctors are wearing
normal clothing, shorts are appropriate for males.
As of 01 June 2012, smoking is prohibited
in workplaces, schools, hospitals, and on public transport.
Internet access in Honiara:
There are Internet Cafes in Honiara.
offers ADSL and dial-up internet access.
Internet access in Gizo:
A visitor wrote in summer 2004:
Internet access in Gizo is terrible. The Internet office
of Solomon Telekom has only one terminal. There is also an
Internet Cafe (which I use most of the time), but it is slow
and rather expensive. Another Cafe I wanted to test yesterday
was not operational.
Internet access in Auki:
Internet Cafe BE-Xpress (opened end of April
Mobile phones (GSM standard):
You may have to purchase a (prepaid) SIM card from Solomon Telekom or
|Prices of September
|included initial prepayment
|Call per minute (mobile to local mobile)
¹ As of July 2011, mobile to Telekom mobile SBD
As of August 2013, Telekom mobile phone service is available
in and around: Honiara, Gold Ridge, Tetere, Marasa (Guadalcanal
Province), Tulagi, Yandina (Central Province), Gizo, Noro,
Munda, Ringgi, Seghe (Western Province), Auki, Afio, Malu'u,
Ontong Java (Malaita Province), Kirakira (Makira Ulawa
Province), Lata, Tikopia (Temotu Province), Buala, Kia (Isabel
Province), Taro (Choiseul Province), Ngongona on Bellona Island
As of November 2010, bemobile mobile telephone service is
available in Honiara, parts of Guadalcanal, Auki (Malaita
Province) and Gizo (Western Province).
As of August 1, 2009 7-digit mobile phone numbers are used.
Existing 5-digit numbers get a 74 prefix.
If you encounter problems, discuss them with your
Never forget: you are merely a guest in this country and
have to accept it with all its shortcomings. Your behavior will
determine whether you are accepted or just tolerated by the
Please fill in our questionnaire once you are back home.
Others can learn from your experience. Of course, we also
gladly accept more detailed reports (perhaps even with
Do you have additional questions? Just contact us.