Tauranga orthopaedic surgeon Vaughan Poutawera served on the largest deployment of the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT) in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

Mr Poutawera was one of 17 people deployed in four teams in March to treat patients who suffered storm-related injuries.

For two weeks, he and his team handled fractured femurs, infected wounds and complications of wounds due to diabetes.

"It's an epidemic in Fiji as in a lot of parts in the Pacific," he said. The surgeon also reconstructed tendons, plated broken bones and debrided (removed tissue from) infected wounds.


Mr Poutawera, who works at Tauranga and Grace Hospitals, says he has been teaching and operating in the Pacific for years, travelling to the Cook Islands, Samoa and the Solomon Islands.

"I have that deep feeling that I need to be doing something to help and I have transferable skills I can use." The surgeon says locals are quick to acknowledge medical teams' efforts.

"We get a lot of big smiles and big waves and 'bulas', People come up and shake our hands."