ABOUT 3000 people in the south-end of Taveuni have been without health services for the past month following the closure of the health centre in the area.
The health centre at Waimaqera has been closed for the past month, according to residents.
And the absence of health services has been blamed for the death of farmer Rakesh Kumar, who died last week after being rushed to the hospital at Waiyevo, which is an hour's ride away.
Residents said they had to fork out $50 to hire carriers to Waiyevo.
The mother of the farmer, Sukraji, 80, said if the health centre was open, her son would still be alive.
"He would have been alive because doctors or nurses at the health centre could have attended to my son and saved his life," she said.
"My son was on his way to their dalo farm when he complained of chest pains. His chest pains got worse so we decided to take him to the health centre but it was closed and we had to rush him to the hospital in Waiyevo.
"He later died in hospital and if he was at least seen in the first instance at the dispensary I believe doctors and nurses would have done something to my son before he was rushed to hospital."
The deceased's nephew, Raju Sami, said his uncle collapsed at the hospital after waiting to see the doctor.
"I believe that if he was seen at that instance in Waimaqera Health Centre, he would not have died as doctors would have done something right away," he said.
Efforts to contact divisional medical officer North Doctor Tevita Qoroniasi proved futile. Questions sent to the ministry remained unanswered.
But Health Minister Doctor Neil Sharma yesterday referred queries to Dr Tevita, saying he was in a better position to comment on the situation.
"Dr Tevita is in a better position to talk about this situation as he is more aware. I will be in the North tomorrow (today)," he said.
Another Qarawalu resident, Sarojni Devi, said the health centre was closed for some time.
"The dispensary is supposed to be open every Wednesday for diabetic clinic but this is not the case. All the time, we waste bus fares going to the health centre and back home," she said.
"Where can we ordinary people turn to if the services are not available in our area? We have often heard them complaining about the lack of water supply in the area but how different are their pleas from ours because we suffer from the same problem too."