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Opinion

Analysis: Health Moving In A Steady And Positive Direction

Analysis: Health Moving In A Steady And Positive Direction
July 27
11:47 2018

Health always ranks high in a general election.

In this 2018 general election it will be in the top five of election issues.

The way we judge our health service is usually based on the negative outcomes, rarely on the positive outcomes.

When there is a successful operation, only the close relatives know about it.

But when something goes wrong on the operating table or after the operation, the news spreads quickly until it reaches the news media.

The negative perception is sometimes fuelled by a lack of knowledge about the background of a case.

Not all unsuccessful cases are caused by doctors. Sometimes patients are referred to the hospital late and there is not much the doctors can do to save them.

However, people still expect them to perform miracles. It is followed by the chatter on social media where unfounded claims are expressed.

The sad thing about this is that it’s a one-way traffic against medical personnel who cannot respond because they have sworn on oath not to divulge patient details in public. Unfortunately, this influences public opinion and perception.

It’s something that every government lives with and tries to correct.

The standard of any health service is inextricably linked with the allocated budget.

The total budget for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for the 2018-2019 is $335 million, comprising $260 million for operating expenditure, $60.5 million for capital expenditure and VAT of $14.5 million.

The increase of $13.9 million in the budget is mainly attributed to:

  • Significant investment in the upgrade and expansion of existing health facilities, construction of new facilities, equipping of all health facilities in the country with modern medical equipment
  • An increase in the recruitment of allied and technical staff to ensure prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a range of conditions and illnesses
  • An increase in medical human resources contingencies for hiring of locum doctors, including private general practitioners and specialists, to cater for the current shortage and to better meet patient needs; and
  • The provision for an increase in the allowance for community health workers to improve and increase access to health services
  • In the context of the election the debate on the health service will boil down to which party can offer a better alternative to this.

The FijiFirst Government’s investment in health is laudable. In the 2017-2018 Budget, doctors and nurses were recognised by receiving the overdue big pay rise of up to 80 per cent. It is an incentive for them to stay here and work instead of being lured by the big bucks overseas.

In the Fiji Medical Association records, 400 doctors are registered as members. This figure does not include the general practitioners (the GPs or private doctors) and they number at least 100. That figure is expected to rise because of the incentives.

The provision to increase payment of private doctors and specialists to do locuming at public hospitals and health centres will reduce the pressure for medical professionals and the waiting line for the patients.

The increasing cadre of experienced specialists- many of them overseas-trained – is expected to improve the level and standard of medical care.

We now have a pool of doctors/surgeons with the intellectual capacity to be able to modernize our medical service.

While the Government has been full-on improving infrastructure, buildings, facilities and equipment, the human resources have also been undergoing a major lift.

In the next five years, we should be seeing a much better service from our health and medical service.

One area that needs to be urgently looked at is a comprehensive specialist midwifery training programme that runs parallel to the nursing programme.

This will address the shortage of midwives throughout the country. Specialist midwives will take the pressure off doctors in a prescribed scope of practice that goes beyond their current scope of practice.

Radiation and oncology is another area that needs to be developed. The potential is there to set up a Regional Cancer Centre here.

It also needs to be noted that there has been significant development in cardiology, neurosurgery, radiation and oncology and kidney treatment.

From all indications, the future looks promising and exciting if we maintain the current momentum. Are we moving in the right direction? Definitely.

TOMORROW: Education – What the future holds

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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