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A piece of Lau in Atafu

Google Earth says Vanuabalavu Island in Fiji’s northeast lies 1400 km southwest of Atafu, one of three inhabited atolls of Tokelau. And while separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, the two islands share a common link – their hospitals bear the same name. Lomaloma Hospital is located about 5-minutes walk from Atafu’s boat landing. It comprises a cluster of 3 or 4 timber buildings, just beside the sandy main road on the atoll. It serves Atafu’s population of 450 people, including women and children. The main hospital on Vanuabalavu in Fiji is also called Lomaloma, named after its host village.

“The name of our hospital was brought to Atafu by one of the first Tokelauan to graduate from Fiji’s Central Medical School (now the Fiji School of Medicine under the Fiji National University),” explains one of Atafu’s elders Kelihiano Kalolo. “I think he must have done his internship in your Lomaloma Hospital in Fiji and when he returned to get our hospital built, he was the one who decided to name it Lomaloma.” The name has remained since. One of the senior doctors at Atafu’s Lomaloma Hospital, Dr Iuta Faletua, named this pioneering doctor as John Logologo. Nobody on Atafu recalls when he went to Fiji to attend medical school.

Our search discovered that two students from Tokelau graduated from Fiji’s Medical School in 1916. Their names were not disclosed. This piece of information seems to fit with what Dr Faletua explained. He said Dr John and another doctor remembered only as Dr Simeti were the pioneering doctors of Tokelau. Both were educated in Fiji. Elder Kaholo believes the two were the first Polynesians to graduate from Fiji’s medical school. Dr Faletua himself is a product of FSM. He graduated in 1966 with Fijian doctors like Dr Varea and Dr Epeli Nailatikau. Although 75 this year, Dr Faletua was brought back from retirement to fill the need for doctors on Lomaloma Hospital in Atafu.

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