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Medical tourism

Ropate Valemei
Thursday, November 26, 2015

AN increase in the health budget to meet a number of objectives and programs may not be enough to meet people's expectations, says Nadi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) president Dr Ram Raju.

Dr Raju said a dynamic program and policies were needed to retain doctors and nurses who continued to migrate with shortage of drugs and other consumables affecting consumers.

This is part of the chamber's response to the 2016 budget that was announced by the Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum early this month.

"Construction of private hospitals and 10 years tax amnesty will hopefully see more private hospitals in Fiji and particularly so in the Western Division," he said.

"Zero duty on diagnostic equipment and some consumables will also help more private sector partnership which needs to be strengthened.

"Lautoka Hospital and likewise Labasa Hospital should also be considered as University Hospitals in the near future.

"There's scope to turn these two into super hospitals to kick start medical tourism."

He said Nadi Hospital needed to be upgraded to international standards and staffed by well qualified senior doctors and specialists and it could also be semi-privatised.

According to him, this would help provide world-class medical care to tourists and locals.

"Fiji's life expectancy is 69 years and we are ranked 118 in the world. In comparison Australia is ranked second at 83 years and NZ 9th with 82 years.

"The private sector, general practitioners (GP) who are members of Fiji College of General Practitioners have a lot to offer in the overall care and health needs of the community.

"Role of GPs is often ignored who are the largest group of 'specialists' in Fiji who have a lot to contribute."

He said a separate submission was to be made shortly to the Ministry of Health.

"Increase in tobacco taxation (12.5 per cent) and health levy (6 per cent) although merited will not deter smoking trends as we have seen in the past.

"The best solution is to ban smoking in Fiji."

For the National Health Insurance Scheme unfortunately, he said, this still eluded them and very little efforts made to introduce a National Health Insurance Scheme in Fiji.

"About 12 per cent of Fiji's population have some form of private health insurance scheme which have operated very successfully over the last 25 years or so.

"Cabinet can easily empower all the employers to make private health insurance compulsory for every permanent employee."

Dr Raju said this would cover more than 50 per cent of the population and the others could be covered under social security insurance.

"Our life expectancy otherwise will never get better."

Non-communicable diseases, he added, had to be prevented with bold measures and not by opening new health centres.

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