PM Expresses Concerns About iTaukei Health

Bainimarama says we need to support community health workers if we are to effectively deal with challenges we face Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says almost 60 per cent of all
16 Dec 2016 11:00
PM Expresses Concerns About iTaukei Health
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is being garland by Lawaki Community Nurse Milikiti Cakau during the signing of the MOU for Community Health Workers Program yesterday.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.

Bainimarama says we need to support community health workers if we are to effectively deal with challenges we face

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says almost 60 per cent of all maternal deaths and 60 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in Fiji are among iTaukei women.

Mr Bainimarama released the figures while expressing his concerns about iTaukei health yesterday.

He spoke at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Medical Service at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

It is supported by the Australian government.

The MOU is designed to revitalise the community health worker program.

Mr Bainimarama said: “There is also a higher incidence among the iTaukei of typhoid, dengue fever and other diseases.

“And malnutrition in children under five years of age is also higher than among other Fijians.”

He said a report five years ago by the Ministry of Health funded by the Australian Government revealed that out of the 606 community health workers interviewed, 85 per cent said they had no support from their communities at all.

He added this was leading to a huge turnover of community health workers, as they left the system to pursue more satisfying roles in which they felt more valued and effective.

“This is clearly not good enough if we are to deal effectively with the health challenges we face, and especially the alarmingly high incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Fiji.

“We have one of the highest rates of NCDs in the world – preventable diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes,” he said.

“A study three years ago showed that a staggering 80 per cent of the premature deaths of iTaukei between the ages of 40 to 45 were due to NCDs.

“I repeat: these deaths are preventable. They needn’t happen at all. And it is vital that we make the battle against NCDs an important national priority.

“Part of this means educating our people that a change of lifestyle can save lives.

“That eating less fatty food and more fresh vegetables and fish, not drinking as much kava or alcohol and walking rather than taking the bus, can make a huge difference to a person’s lifespan and general wellbeing.

“We must also step up our effort to emphasise that prevention rather than cure is the best way to relieve the huge burden that NCDs are having on our health budgets and the system as a whole.

“The burden on our hospitals and health clinics caused by diseases that can be prevented must be lifted. And it is the responsibility of every Fijian to play their part in this effort.

“That is why this programme of strengthening the community health worker system is so important.

“And not just in the battle against NCDs but by using these workers more effectively to educate our people about a range of health challenges, many of them also preventable.

“We must make more of an effort as a nation to confront this crisis.

“We must build a better bridge between our community health workers and the people who desperately need their services.

“They need to be engaged at a much better level. And I’m delighted to see a concerted effort being undertaken in this report to embrace a range of measures to turn this situation around.

“They include more funding; better training; better standards of governance; more comprehensive community participation through village health committees; more clearly defined roles for our health workers; more clearly defined roles for the two ministries involved in this program; stronger links between the health system and provincial councils; and better supervision and monitoring of the program to ensure more effective outcomes.”

There are more than 1500 health workers in Fiji who are dedicating their time and lives to improving healthy outcomes for the Fijian people.

Tavaita Tubainavatu, 54 of Navutulevu, Serua who was the first appointed community health worker said: “It has been 37 years now and I am enjoying every bit of it.

“It was never an easy task because sometimes I have to take my patient to the hospital with my own expenses.

“At times I have to leave my husband and child at home while I stay with my patient in the hospital for two to three days.”

“There was not a single cent that I got for my efforts but I was happy doing my job. I thank my family for the full support and there’s no regrets.”

Josaia Baseiwaqa, 41, from Nabukelevu, Serua said he had been serving since 1994 and remains committed.

“I am not married so I spend most of my time serving the community,” he said.

Mr Baseiwaqa said he had delivered nine babies in the village because of transport problems and at times flooding.

“I have my own small work place which opens two hours every day from 8am to 10am, but I am always available for emergencies,” he said.

“I wasn’t paid with cash but I was paid with millions of blessings from God.”

Mr Baseiwaqa also appreciated his family for their endless support.

Serving for 20 years, Milikiti Cakau, 53 from Lawaki, Tailevu, also said she has never given up on her work.

“Every day I learn new things and I love my work serving as a community worker, even though I wasn’t paid all these years,” she said.

Edited by Naisa Koroi




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