The world's most isolated doctor

CHARLIE MITCHELL
Last updated 16:02 05/08/2014
Pitcairn island
HARVEY CLAIRE

REMOTE ISLAND: Looking down to Bounty Bay from the Hill of Difficulty, Pitcairn Island.

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Do you want to get away from it all? Are you comfortable being responsible for the health of an entire population?

Then why not spend a year as the only doctor on the most remote inhabited place in the world.

Pitcairn Island, roughly halfway between New Zealand and Chile, is advertising for a medical officer to attend to its 49 permanent residents.

Most of the tiny island's inhabitants are descended from famed mutineer Fletcher Christian, who fled there with 11 kidnapped Tahitian women in 1790. It is governed by the United Kingdom and administered from Wellington.

Getting there is arduous - one must fly to a Tahitian island before enduring a 36 hour boat-ride. The rocky island has no airstrip, and the only regular shipping service departs from Tauranga at a cost of $5000 per head.

Due to the island's dwindling population - down from its peak of 250 in 1936 - vital positions need to be recruited from off-shore.

The current medical officer is set to depart in late November, a Pitcairn Island spokesperson said, prompting the ad for their replacement.

He said alongside a medical officer, it annually recruited a teacher, a family and community adviser, and a policeman from New Zealand on one year terms.

But the island's only doctor is the last lifeline for an ageing population, many past retirement age, who are becoming unfit to do the strenuous work needed to keep it running.

A report commissioned by Rob Solomon, a Wellington based consultant, discovered only 10 men were physically capable of managing the longboats that bring supplies to the island, and the number of fertile woman on the island may be as low as one.

To entice someone to care for the beleaguered "Pitkerners", an ad in New Zealand Doctor magazine boasts a "competitive package", including the use of a two-bedroom house and exclusive access to a quad bike.

The successful applicant may bring a partner with them, but no "dependent children".

They must also have "good General Practice experience and be confident to handle occasional emergencies in a remote situation".

With Pitcairn's rugged, rocky terrain, injuries are inevitable. Names such as "Where Dan Fall" and "Where Minnie Off" refer to places where people have injured themselves. A rock named "Bitey Bitey" lies off the coast, and an area above the harbour is simply called "Oh Dear."

The number of applications for the posting is not yet known as the job is still being advertised, the spokesman said.

The island's dark underbelly was exposed in 2004 when seven of its then 47 residents were trialled on sex offence charges. Six were found guilty, including the island's Mayor.

Nearly 30 per cent of the island's men are convicted sex offenders.

The men who were facing trial built their own prison, which they have all now been released from.

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