25 Nov 2013

Fiji government told to take responsibility for deteriorating hospitals

5:48 pm on 25 November 2013

The Fiji government has been told to stop blaming past administrations and take responsibility to improve the state of the country's hospitals.

The political grouping, the United Front for a Democratic Fiji, says hospitals are in desperate need of repair and staff are overworked and forced to use inferior medical supplies.

A community organisation says it hears horror stories from patients every day but says there's no recourse for anyone with a complaint.

Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:

The United Front for a Democratic Fiji says on a recent visit to the Lautoka Hospital, they found only one of the three lifts were operating and patients are being asked to buy their own medication. The UFDF's Mick Beddoes says last year nearly US$5.5 million worth of medication had to be written off after sitting in stock and expiring. Mr Beddoes says hospitals are being supplied poor quality items from China and India and doctors and nurses for example are buying their own plaster for use on patients because what's supplied falls off within minutes.

"MICK BEDDOES: I'm assuming saving costs will have something to do with it but at the end of the day if you're buying things that don't actually work why are we buying them? If they're no good for the patient then what's the use of getting them?"

The president of the Medical Association, Dr James Fong, says the Ministry of Health is trying to increase the quantity of items but has recently acknowledged the need to ensure quality. Dr Fong says the Ministry of Health is aware of the issues hospitals are experiencing and is trying to do something about it.

JAMES FONG: There is a sense of urgency, especially as of late. I know that people do get a bit annoyed about the state of some of our major hospitals. In many of our discussions this has been discussed and there have been efforts to try and ensure that we have a planned approach to any upgrade.

Dr Fong says construction has started on increasing the number of operating theatres at the CWM hospital. But Mick Beddoes says there isn't enough staff to handle the current number of theatres with some anaesthetists working 24 hour shifts. Mr Beddoes says the Minister of Health, Dr Neil Sharma, announced a $4.3 US$4.3 million upgrade of the Lautoka Hospital and CWM hospitals in 2010 but says there's been little visible improvements, and says the minister should resign.

MICK BEDDOES: He's trying to suggest that it is because of prior neglect, well what do we mean by prior, they've been in government for seven years and the issues we've raised are what has occurred in the last 24 months, they can't keep blaming governments prior to 2006.

Dr Neil Sharma says funding has been allocated for upgrades but refused to comment further. The co-ordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, says the health system has been slowly deteriorating and it's become worse over the last few years. She says under the current climate no one is held accountable.

SHAMIMA ALI: It's mismanagement, the resources not being used effectively and also a lack of accountability. In terms of people complaining and the complaints being heard, no one responds, no one answers those questions, something is going very, very wrong.