31 Jul 2007

Fiji to go broke if strikers' demand met, says interim PM

3:07 pm on 31 July 2007

Fiji's interim prime minister says the country will go broke if the government agrees to meet the demands of nurses whose strike has entered its seventh day.

Commodore Bainimarama says the industrial action taken by nurses as well as the strikes planned by other unions will only set the country back.

He says the nurses have already lost a week's wages and stand to lose much more if they continue their action.

Commodore Bainimarama says he would be prepared to meet with officials of the Fiji Nurses Association only if they are prepared to understand the government's view which is related to the state of public finances and the country's economy.

Meanwhile, the association's general secretary, Kuini Lutua, has threatened to intensify their strike by pulling out 190 students nurses who are helping out at hospitals if their dispute is not referred to compulsory arbitration.

The strike is likely to leave the health service with a huge backlog of patients needing treatment.

Most hospitals are only providing emergency care and outpatients, specialist clinics and community health services have been closed to concentrate available staff in areas of greatest need.

The acting Director of the Western Health Division, Dr Eloni Tora, says patients will have been trying to trying to look after themselves:

"I would assume that now they are either resorting to traditional medicine, resorting to other avenues to healing. Probably gong to GPs and having to pay for that. Eventually when the stations are open they will be rushing back to be seen."

The acting Director of the Western Health Division, Dr Eloni Tora