‘Services need overhaul’

Nurses attending to patients at the Makoi Health Centre. Picture: FT FILE

Nurses attending to patients at the Makoi Health Centre. Picture: FT FILE

The theme for the 2018 World Health Day which will be celebrated worldwide on April 7, 2018 is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere”.

When celebrating World Health Day today, we must all reflect on and review our commitments and pledges to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 which was endorsed by our current leader.

I believe that “health for all” has been our guiding vision in more than four decades of development in Fiji by our founding fathers.

International experience has shown time and again that universal health coverage is achieved when political will and commitment are strong.

It is unfortunate to note that the recent confirmation from the Ministry of Health of the meningococcal disease outbreak and the 1854 confirmed dengue fever cases for 2018 alone, underscores the lack of political commitment to reform and upgrade our health and hospital services and facilities, rather encouraging the participation of the private sector in government’s core business as recently announced by the Minister for Economy.

This defeats the goal of universal health coverage, because it will place basic health services beyond the reach of majority of our population. It is the responsibility of Government to provide basic health services to all its citizens rather than trying to force the user-pay principle.

Fiji’s health services need a massive overhaul commencing from basic health services at all levels of primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The shortage of skilled health staff, poor working conditions and high turnover of staff and dissatisfaction have created this vacuum.

In addition, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, respiratory illnesses and cancer have now replaced infectious and parasitic disease as the major cause of morbidity and mortality.

Therefore, the maintenance of an appropriate level of infrastructure and facilities is vital for effective delivery of health services, which has been neglected. Increased demand, high cost of health care coupled with the poor state of health infrastructure will be given attention by a SODELPA government to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of our health system through the provision of necessary resources.

A SODELPA government is committed to providing universal health coverage in terms of:

* Raising the standard of living for every individual and communities by ensuring they receive health services they need, when and where they need them. A SODELPA government will provide free outpatient medical services and review the free medicine scheme to address availability and access;

* Preventing people from being pushed into poverty when paying for health services out of their own pockets. A more targeted approach to assist the most vulnerable groups will be implemented immediately to minimise the cost of procurement of drugs and essential equipments, purchasing procedures will be reviewed;

* Access to primary health care will be given priority. SODELPA will implement compulsory NCD screening in all health facilities around the country to consolidate our current referral system. Greater emphasis on alternative and traditional medicine will be nurtured in our healthcare system;

* Strengthen the national public health policy on healthy living, particularly in our schools through a ban on the sale of sugar-based products and unhealthy snacks;

* A SODELPA government will invest in universal health coverage and make sound investment in their human capital through inspiring policy makers power to transform our health services and motivate through sharing experiences from other countries on universal health coverage; at the same time provide tools for structured policy dialogue on how to advance universal health coverage domestically or supporting effort by other development partners.