ANALYSIS: Building Partnerships For A Stronger, Healthier Fiji

Here in Fiji, we’ve achieved eight straight years of economic growth and a 30-year low in unemployment as a result of Government’s sound and consistent financial management of the Fijian
05 Mar 2018 11:42
ANALYSIS: Building Partnerships For A Stronger, Healthier Fiji

Here in Fiji, we’ve achieved eight straight years of economic growth and a 30-year low in unemployment as a result of Government’s sound and consistent financial management of the Fijian economy.

Companies around the world are seeing what’s happening in Fiji.

They see we are on a stable path of economic development.

They see our networks of reliable infrastructure and services, our range of investor-friendly policies and our long-term game plan for taking Fiji forward, and they are keen to partner with us in a wide variety of areas.

Government  is capitalising on that interest by forging new partnerships to increase the range of medical treatments and procedures available to the Fijian people, right here in Fiji.

That is why the Ministry of Economy has joined with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to pursue a new public-private partnership (PPP) with an internationally-certified hospital operator to revolutionise the healthcare services at the Lautoka and Ba hospitals.

Government is no doubt proud of the progress they have already made to improve the health of the Fijian people. Government already has a number of reforms underway, and has seen significant success over the past decade in increasing life expectancy, improving health outcomes in mothers and children, reducing illness from communicable diseases and expanding access to medical services for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

They are now seeking an international partner because they need to make more medical procedures available here in Fiji, they need to increase specialisation by providing our hospital staff with more exposure to relevant expertise and training, and we need to better position the Fijian healthcare system to attract more investment and more medical tourism from overseas.

Public-private partnerships are effective because they tap the expertise, resources and innovation of the private sector for the public good. We’ve already seen great results from past PPP projects in Fiji, most notably, with the establishment of a long-term investment partnership with Aitken Spence PLC to develop and enlarge Fiji Ports Corporation Limited’s asset base. This resulted in the sale of 59 per cent of shares in Fiji Ports Corporation Limited at a value of more than FJ$100 million, with the majority of shares held between the Government and the Fiji National Provident Fund. Through that PPP, Government has improved efficiency and productivity at our ports, have made our imports cheaper and our exports more competitive.

In the Fijian healthcare system as well, there is tremendous potential for private sector engagement. Under the proposed PPP for the Ba and Lautoka hospitals, about 380,000 Fijians will receive much better health services, health workers will get training in operating new and more modern medical equipment and we will open new facilities, with new services offered to the Fijian people. It will also ensure that the Lautoka and Ba hospital facilities are run and maintained at full international standards.

Through the proposed arrangement, the Fiji National Provident Fund, our national superannuation fund, together with the private sector hospital operator, will be the majority investors in both hospitals.

Under previous governments, Fiji wasn’t making adequate investment in human resources and training for staff, and as a result we lagged behind in developing local capacity to carry out highly specialised treatments. FijiFirst Government has made progress making up that gap in expertise, and this PPP project will go even further to give our local staff the training and expertise they need to operate modern medical equipment so that fewer Fijians will have to go overseas to seek medical treatment.

Specifically, expanding tertiary care offerings, provide higher quality maternity care and expand the treatment and procedures for non-communicable diseases, including 24/7 availability of open heart surgeries in Fiji. As part of the PPP project, the private sector hospital operator will also construct a new hospital wing with new, modern facilities at the Lautoka divisional hospital and massively upgrade the hospital’s existing health facilities.

Over the long term, our partnership with an international hospital operator will dramatically reduce the cost to Government for assisting Fijians to seek overseas treatment and it will create a workplace environment that is more attractive for international doctors to work in Fiji. Our local doctors, nurses, pharmacists, radiographers, dietitians and lab technicians, along with all of our allied health workers, are also going to benefit from greater training opportunities and access to new medical technologies.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has personally met with our staff at both hospitals, and their response to this PPP project has been extremely positive, because they appreciate the great impact that the upgrades, development, training, and new equipment will have for their work and for the health and wellbeing of their fellow Fijians

The progress we make under this partnership will also help attract regional and international health conferences to Fiji, putting our health sector on the cutting edge of new developments and emerging trends in healthcare. And with this new foundation of treatments, facilities and procedures in place, we will also pave the way towards Government’s launch of a National Health Insurance Scheme in Fiji.

Involving the private sector does not mean that the hospitals are being privatised. On the contrary. A public-private partnership will ensure that the Lautoka and Ba hospitals remain public hospitals. They will not be privatised and no staff will lose their jobs. In fact, through this initiative, we expect to hire and train more health workers to meet the growing health needs of the Fijian people.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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