Working in Tonga’s only GP clinic

working in tonga - doctor clinic

This rural GP job is one-of-a-kind…

The Kingdom of Tonga is a little off the tourist trail. It is natural, low-key, and authentic. Visitors love the friendly locals, the stunning beaches, and the laid-back lifestyle.

In Ha’ateiho, on the main island of Tongatapu, there’s a small Kiwi-style general practice called the Village Mission Clinic. Started by New Zealander Dr Glennis Mafi more than thirty years ago, it is still the only GP clinic in Tonga. Dr Mafi built up the clinic over many years, regularly doing GP jobs and attending courses back in New Zealand to supplement her income and maintain her knowledge and high standards.

Dr Moni Kami’s rural GP experience

In December 2015, Dr Mafi and her family returned to Auckland, and the clinic moved into the care of Tongan-born Dr Moni Kami.

“Though I grew up mostly in Papa New Guinea and now live in Australia, I always felt a God’s calling to return to Tonga. It seemed like great timing,” says Moni.

Dr Moni has worked in GP jobs and studied around the world, including in the UK and Australia. An enthusiastic sportsperson, he has completed weightlifting and once fought the legendary David Tua at the 1990 Oceana Boxing Championships (he lost!) He is now one of 10 INS Federal Doctors, caring for athletes in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games (including at the Rio 2016 Games).

Alongside working in a friend’s practice in Queensland, Australia and researching online GP tools for patients across the world, Dr Moni Kami spends time running the Village Mission Clinic and enlists the help of GPs from overseas.

“It’s really quite special,” he says.

“This sort of practice is something that we take for granted in Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world. What’s striking about working in the Village Mission Clinic is how grateful the patients are for your help. They’re not used to this sort of care and are very appreciative.”

“This is a very good experience for those looking to re-ignite their passion for being a doctor.”

Doctors usually work at the clinic for between two months and two years. They’re paid a small but manageable weekly wage and live in a comfortable, fully furnished house near the local shops. It’s easy to hire a car but even easier (and far more enjoyable) to cycle everywhere. It’s a very different lifestyle from what the average General Practitioner is used to, but Moni says this is the “placement's charm.”

“To take on a placement here, you need to come with an open mind. Things work slowly, but they work. you have nurse support and a capable pharmacist who is very helpful, considering the limited range of what’s available.

“There’s plenty to discover in Tonga, too; the culture is fascinating, and you can go whale watching and swimming with whales off the nearby beaches. It’s a very rewarding, great experience.”

 Interested in working as a GP in Tonga?

What: Village Mission Clinic, General Practitioner 

Where: Ha’ateiho, Tonga (main island)

Dates: Variable

Remuneration:  Token monthly allowance (around 500p/w Tongan dollars), accommodation in a fully furnished, comfortable house close to the shops

Must have: At least two years experience as a GP

Would help: Diabetes and cardiovascular issues are common problems in Tonga, so a good knowledge of these areas would help.

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Dr Sam Hazledine
04 January 2017Article by Dr Sam HazledineMedrecruit Founder