HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 583: 28 September 2011

Insert Text HereA tireless dedication
Dr Noovao steps down and sideways into private practice

If you have not seen local surgeon Dr Teariki Noovao around Rarotonga Hospital lately, and you have been wondering where he is, the short answer is that he has retired.
He’s at home, with one barking dog, contemplating his transition to private practice.
You may not have seen or heard of any farewell function or presentation to Dr Noovao who served more than 20 years at Rarotonga Hospital as a general surgeon because, apparently, there was no farewell function or presentation. No speeches by the Minister of Health, no acknowledgement in parliament or public thank you for all those years of service to the outer islands and on Rarotonga. No farewell gift, just a (clinical) letter from the Secretary of Health Tupou Faireka dated 27 July 2011 suggesting Dr Noovao retire effective 31 August 2011.
Dr Noovao had in fact worked beyond his retirement age. He had left, was asked to come back for a spell and now has finished up for good.
The quandary is why now? His replacement, Dr Deacon Tiapa (who hails from Pukapuka) is still overseas at Tauranga Hospital in NZ, training in Orthopedics and won’t be back for at least another year. With Dr Noovao gone, the hospital will have to bring in a locum probably from overseas and on a higher rate of pay than for a local.
What were all those years of service worth? The Ministry in its generosity in these cash strapped times, paid Dr Noovao a “gratuity” of two weeks pay (equivalent to 1 fortnight’s pay), unused annual leave entitlement (10 days pay) and unused sick leave ( 8 days). As the country’s highest paid surgeon Dr Noovao was for a long time on a salary of about $52,000. According to former Minister for Health, Sir Terepai Maoate, that’s far less than what some librarians are paid. At retirement, Dr Noovao’s salary was around $60,000. Compare that to what some HOMs are paid.
Faireka’s letter thanked Dr Noovao on behalf of the Minister, Executives and staff for his tireless dedication. The letter also thanked him for his hard work and dedication . Faireka’s letter also acknowledged Dr Noovao’s many years of providing excellent health services and his contribution to the development of clinical and surgical services in the Cook Islands.
As the country’s long serving senior surgeon he deserved a public thank you delivered in parliament by the Minister for the government and on behalf of the people.
A general surgeon, Dr Noovao’s medical career actually spans more than 43 years beginning with medical school. He served 6 years in American Samoa before returning to Rarotonga in 1996. Prior to that he served his time in the outer islands-“Been there, done that,” he said. No emergency planes in those days. He served in Atiu where Mike Tavioni, an old classmate who was working for Agriculture in Atiu at the time, says they would visit the Tumunu and because they did not drink bush beer, they took half a dozen cans of beer each. Noovao said Tavioni, had a knack of catching Kotoaa but we’ll leave that to the Dr to explain when he writes his memoirs. He also did time in Mangaia and Manihiki.
Dr Noovao, hazy on the dates, said in 1997, he did a post graduate attachment at Sydney’s St George Hospital. That was when he received the Surgeon’s International Award. He also spent time at a Hospital in Tasmania, (Australia), Tauranga Hospital (NZ) and did two years at Invercargill Hospital (NZ) under George Ngaei.
Dr Noovao concedes it’s time to retire and his plans are to operate a private surgery from his home on the back road, across from Avatea School (The sign is up). By next week it will be fully under way. Opening hours are 9am-3pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 12 noon on Saturdays.
Dr Noovao is contemplating writing a book about his experiences-and so he should.
In years to come, Dr Noovao will be remembered for another achievement-giving us three talented Doctors to carry on that dedication to medicine-Amanda, Fiona and Dion-all surgeons.
The Herald wishes Dr Noovao well in his future endeavors. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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