TUBERCULOSIS is threatening to wipe out the population of Rabi Island in a few years.
As such, the government is moving decisively to address the crisis by upgrading the Rabi Health Centre and providing it with equipment and services it needs to fulfil the needs of the people.
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said Rabi was one of the priorities of the Ministry of Health in its efforts to control tuberculosis, "which is a serious threat to everyone on this island".
"Indeed, we have a crisis here that requires decisive action," he said.
"The incidence of TB on Rabi is 22 times higher than the national average, 513 cases per 100,000 people compared with 23 cases per 100,000 in the rest of Fiji.
"Indeed our experts warn us that if TB is not controlled, the disease has the potential to wipe out the population here in just a few years."
Commodore Bainimarama made the comments while opening the refurbished Rabi Health Centre yesterday.
He said the Health Ministry has categorised the facility as a Directly Observed Treatment Short course centre or DOTS.
"This means that people in Rabi can readily access TB services for free.
"As a DOTS treatment centre, Rabi gets its own X-ray machine that gives doctors the ability to better diagnose tuberculosis, as well as a range of other ailments."
Commodore Bainimarama said the doctors also had new equipment to conduct sputum and blood tests.
"For TB patients receiving treatment, we are providing better support and more comfortable surroundings in our refurbished 10-bed ward.
"And we are also supporting their families with better access to advice and counselling."
Commodore Bainimarama said for ordinary people, the upgrade had some other important benefits.
He said TB patients would remain in Rabi, close to their homes and families during the entire course of their treatment.
He said they no longer have to travel to Labasa Hospital or Tamavua Hospital in Suva to spend the usual two months there being treated.
"We'll be able to diagnose TB quicker and reduce the number of deaths that occur from TB or other diseases because of delayed diagnosis.
"And because everything is here, we can do a lot more to involve community in the care of patients while increasing general awareness about the disease."
Commodore Bainimarama told the people of Rabi to use the health centre well.
"Make sure you come here as soon as you suspect you are ill because the quicker TB is diagnosed, the quicker it can be effectively treated. The same goes for other diseases as well," he said.