AS the countdown continues towards the national elections on September 17, health is slowly turning out to be a major issue for discussion.
The Tebbutt-Times Poll has revealed that health issues cannot be ignored, and will force aspiring candidates and political parties to make their views known.
Coming on the back of recent events around the country that have actually catapulted the medical profession into the limelight, health issues are gaining momentum.
Given the negativity surrounding the profession over the response or lack of it to certain issues, one would expect attention to focus on proactive measures to fix areas of concern.
Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama has made no bones about the importance of the medical profession, calling for improvement from Fijian doctors and nurses. He raised this on Thursday while opening the new Navua Hospital.
He said there was a need for better levels of compassion, empathy and sensitivity shown by caregivers.
"Whenever a patient visits a hospital or clinic, they should feel like the doctors and nurses are fully vested in their health and recovery. Nothing less is acceptable," he said.
And that is a factor the Tebbutt-Times Poll supports.
Generally, people surveyed believe Fiji needs more qualified doctors and nurses. They want better services, facilities and technology in hospitals. They want health professionals to improve the manner in which they deal with patients and to be polite among other things.
On what the top priority was moving forward, 28 per cent of those surveyed in Suva, Nasinu, Lami, Nausori, Nadi, Lautoka and Ba areas said they would like to see more qualified doctors and nurses in the future, making it the highest response.
In the face of negative vibes that have since stuck to the medical profession recently, positive changes have also been raised by the masses including better and faster service, more hospitals and health centres, and decentralisation among other things.
Interestingly though the revelation by the Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma that our doctors carry a higher workload and are susceptible to lapses in judgement when it comes to empathy and sensitivity on the job will attract attention.
He said while complaints against nurses and doctors were unfortunate regular occurrences, extreme pressure on the job needed to be considered.
"I think we are all working towards improving the attitudes of doctors and nurses," Dr Sharma said. "But you must realise the doctors and nurses are carrying one and a half times the normal load and you know constantly people get worn out and tired."
The comments actually raise more questions.
The bottom line is that the average person on the street will need a health system that is easily accessible, affordable, and provides services that are available overseas.
It is now up to the State, and our aspiring politicians to take these issues on board.