Timor-Leste farewells longest-serving expatriate caregiver

After seven years in Timor-Leste, during which he supported the first ever survival of a patient on ventilation, Dili’s national hospital will be saying goodbye to St John of God Social Outreach Country Manager Ben Dingle.

Ben Dingle

20 March 2019

Ben, our longest serving expat, started in Timor-Leste in 2012, initially as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse as part of Social Outreach’s Nursing Development Program (NDP), where he worked together with ICU medical and nursing staff to bring about significant improvement to patient care that resulted in improved ICU mortality rates.

“For the first time in the hospital’s history, ventilated patients began to survive – this was a major outcome from specific ICU training,” Ben said.

Ben said it had been an honour and a privilege to be able to make a tangible difference and improve hospital standards and patient experience during his time there.

“Being part of a great capacity-building team that has made a real difference in the lives of Timorese hospital staff and patients has been incredibly rewarding,” he said.

Ben reflects on fond memories and achievements during his time in the country, including spearheading the Nursing Graduate Program, which is now a standard entry program for all new graduates entering the HNGV workforce.

“Forming close friendships with Timorese counterparts and the SJGHC team of expatriate and Timorese caregivers has been amazing. My fondest memories have been seeing incredible change in the hospital culture around patient centred care,” Ben said.

“Timor-Leste is a fantastic country with wonderful people, culture and activities, but apart from the lifestyle, I will miss the incredible sense of meaning that comes from working in a team who truly understand and actualise the SJGHC Mission, and dedicate a portion of their working life to achieve better healthcare for the Timorese people.”

Recent achievements include signing a new three year Memorandum of Understanding with the Timorese Ministry of Health, securing funding for the first time from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and collaborating with health partners including the World Health Organisation and John Snow International.

SJG Social Outreach CEO Bev East acknowledged Ben’s dedicated service to the people of Timor-Leste by building the capacity of the country’s healthcare workforce.

“It is not easy to work in developing countries where the skills and resources you have around you may be less than what you are used to. It takes flexibility, resilience and a dedicated sense of purpose, all of which Ben has displayed over the years,” Bev said.

SJG Social Outreach International Health Director Anthea Ramos said that Ben had made an invaluable contribution to the hospital, its workforce and the patients.

“It is almost impossible for anyone to fully anticipate the breadth of challenges they will experience in Timor, and how they will use all of their skills in influencing, negotiating and relationship building every day,” Anthea said.

Ben’s last day is March 22, after which he will return to Australia before embarking on travel adventures to the United States and New Zealand.