Labour’s health plans

Patients wait to be seen by doctors at the Makoi Health Centre. Picture: FT FILE

Patients wait to be seen by doctors at the Makoi Health Centre. Picture: FT FILE

OUR nation’s deteriorating state of health is of serious concern to the Fiji Labour Party.

The Health Ministry has been adrift for over a decade now, reeling from one crisis to another.

It is widely acknowledged that our health care facilities are grossly inadequate and under-equipped.

But even more critical is the state of individual health in Fiji and this should concern all of us.

We as a nation need to take responsibility for our health.

Lifestyle diseases

Degenerative or life-style diseases are taking a heavy toll with people dying young. The statistics are grim — the 2017 census shows that only 3.2 per cent of our population make it to age 65 in a world where people are now living much longer.

Fiji’s health stats depict the shocking truth:

* We have among the highest rate of diabetes in the world on a per capita basis;

* Half of all our deaths in the 40-59 age group are attributable to heart-related problems;

* 20 per cent of our people suffer from hyper-tension;

* According to medical insurance companies 50 per cent of our people in the 40-55 age group need medical treatment overseas and;

* We have a high adult mortality rate — three times that of Australia and New Zealand.

Poverty-related diseases

These include the annual epidemics such as dengue, typhoid, leptospirosis, etc caused by lack of proper sanitation, lack of clean drinking water, living in overcrowded tenements and unkempt, filthy environmental conditions. Diseases that Fiji had under control such as TB are now back on the rise.

They are related to deteriorating social conditions — linked closely to poverty and malnutrition.

One must take into account the economic costs of a sick nation: Not only the cost of medical treatment and expensive drugs, but also the loss of productive man hours and loss of family incomes from workers missing work when sick.

Labour will initiate a two-pronged approach to health care:

We will put greater emphasis on primary and preventive health care:

* We will launch war on poverty to ensure that low-income families can afford healthy nutritive food. Malnutrition is a serious problem in Fiji. It affects immunity levels and the individual’s ability to resist viruses and epidemics;

* Provide a healthy living environment by clearing out slums and squatter settlements and resettling people in decent housing estates;

* We will focus on the preventive aspects of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and coronary diseases, diabetes, and kidney failure. Action will be undertaken in schools and at community levels to create awareness;

* A vigorous campaign will be directed against the increasing incidence of substance abuse such as yaqona, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes which are major causes of life-threatening illnesses among our people and;

* We will upgrade existing health care facilities (State owned hospitals and clinics) to ensure they are clean, well equipped and provide competent and efficient delivery of services to our people.

Labour will target the high cost of tertiary health care which puts it beyond the reach of our low-income families. Labour believes that everyone has a right to adequate and timely health care services.

Labour’s plan

The following measures will be initiated to facilitate our health care policies:

* A National Health Service Scheme will be established through the FNPF which will provide medi-care cover to all workers and their families. Those not members of FNPF will be able to secure this cover at affordable prices

* Private sector participation will be invited in the management of divisional hospitals such as CWM, Lautoka and Labasa to raise the standard of curative health care. There will be no job losses.

* Full fledged hospitals will be constructed in other heavily populated areas.

* Specialist doctors will be recruited under special arrangements to overcome skills shortages in this area.

* Adequate funds will be provided to upgrade facilities and for regular urgent maintenance work in hospitals and health centres.

* Fees and charges — Labour will ensure that no one is denied proper medical attention through inability to meet treatment costs. The FijiFirst government has imposed increased fees and charges on a number of services, making them unaffordable to families on low incomes. Labour will review these fees and charges.

* Mobile clinics will be introduced to make regular visits to schools, villages and settlements to promote healthy life-styles, carry out health checks and immunisation programs.