Fiji political parties challenge government's health record
The Fiji government says it has spent over half a billion US dollars in improving health services in the more than seven years since the military coup as it moves towards developing a modern healthcare system.
The Fiji government says it has spent over half a billion US dollars in improving health services more than seven years since the military coup, as it moves towards developing a modern healthcare system.
It says increased budgetary allocations and major reforms are being implemented by the Ministry of Health and in 2014 patients can look forward to new and extended hospital and health centres.
However, as Jenny Meyer reports, political parties are critical of the regime's promises and say the health sector is in crisis.
The leader of Fiji's Labour Party says the country's health services are in a shambles with a shocking deterioration in hospital services over recent years. Mahendra Chaudhry says his party would improve services by collaborating with the private sector, strengthening preventive health measures and recruiting more doctors. He says the shortage of doctors leads to people waiting for hours to be seen and patients often have to supply their own bedding and mosquito nets.
MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY: There needs to be a lot of improvement to the current state of health services, both hospital services as well as preventative services. We have some problems which have become chronic. There are people who are dying who should not be dying because of a lack of proper diagnosis and proper equipment in our hospitals to save lives.
Mahendra Chaudhry says the Fiji Labour Party would like to see a national health service funded by the state treasury that is affordable to all sections of society.
The leader of the National Federation Party says in the last six or seven years health services have gone from bad to worse, making it a top priority. Biman Prasad says his party would look at improving basic facilities at the hospitals including the availability of medications and testing equipment. He says it would also consider decentralising some specialist medical services, and focus on better public health services to address the high death rate from non communicable diseases.
BIMAN PRASAD: Health would be on the top of the agenda when we get into government and that is something that we feel the people in this country deserve better.
Biman Prasad says rising poverty and the high cost of living put an increasing health burden on the poor.
But the Permanent Secretary for Health Dr Eloni Tora says more improvements have been made in the health sector in the past five years compared to the previous 20 years. In response to the criticism from political parties regarding health services he says in a written statement:
ELONI TORA: Health is a common issue raised by parties in elections anywhere in the world. It is an easy topic to pick because people are never satisfied with any health system anywhere. Fiji parties should look at the positive side and note the improvements that have been made such as refurbishment, maintenance and new facilities. Staffing levels are increasing with an additional 400 new posts approved for doctors from 2010 to 2016 and increase of an additional 1510 new posts for nurses from 2010 to 2017.
Dr Tora says the government has modernised laws regulating the practice of health workers; brought in new laws on tobacco, increased public-private partnerships and made more specialised services like joint replacements, major neurological and cardiac surgery available. He says general outpatient services have been decentralised to health centres with expanded opening hours.
But The General Secretary of the SODELPA Party says the current government has never made information on health expenditure publicly available. Pio Tabaiwalu says it would commission a complete nation wide review of the health system to find out where the shortfalls are.
PIO TABAIWALU: We've never had any Auditor General's report since they took over government. So we're not really sure how much they're spending on the health system. But you just have to go to the hospital and see how dilapidated our hospital amenities are and the services that are being handed out to the patients is really, really at a deplorable state at the moment.
Pio Tabaiwalu says his party would investigate the possibility of a national health insurance scheme, support free out patient medical services and would review training and retention of medical personnel. He says the government's plans to reform healthcare on the eve of the elections is too little too late and there is no transparency whatsoever in health spending.
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