Editorial comment – Health dilemma

Fiji Nursing Association president Dr Alisi Vudiniabola. Picture: FILE

The suggestion by the Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) president Dr Alisi Vudiniabola, that nurses are leaving the country every day will attract attention.

She claims the Health Ministry is withholding information from the public on the number of health workers who have resigned.

She also claimed while some were leaving for greener pastures, many were disillusioned and “tired of how their bosses and their employers treat them”.

Dr Vudiniabola was responding to a statement released by the ministry which said the ongoing exodus of medical staff “was a global issue and not specific to Fiji”.

Dr Vudiniabola claimed the ministry was using silence to misinform and distort the nature of the staffing issue which bordered on unsafe staffing levels.

She also suggested it was the ministry’s responsibility to inform the public about the number of health workers who had exited the service and left the country.

The ministry, she claimed, was reluctant to provide the numbers and also release information about the staffing levels at sub-divisional hospitals in Sigatoka and Levuka.

She claimed nurses were not being paid for overtime work along with allowances and there were multiple reports of nurses who faced violence and bullying.

Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong recently said many developed countries including Australia, New Zealand and the US had reported staff shortages related to the exodus of healthcare workers.

Dr Fong acknowledged there were staff shortages which meant some health workers were working long hours, however, recently reintroduced overtime pay and the time off in lieu would help mitigate the shortage.

The ministry, he said, would continue to review and employ strategies to improve the work environment of the health care workforce and has employed a staff rostering approach at appropriate locations to ensure safe working conditions for nurses and patients.

Whatever is happening in the health system, there will be concern at this latest turn of events.

Fijians have expectations of our health system.

Now that we are in an election year, there would be interest on the health issue.

Whatever it is, there will be an expectation that our health system is able to meet the demands of Fijians.

That will mean issues such as infrastructure development, human resources, processes and availability of medicines are given attention.

It will mean attention focused on the workforce, the availability of experts in various fields of medicine, and a conducive environment that is pleasant to work in and serves as the base for enthusiastic, dedicated and committed medical professionals.

It can only be good for Fiji.

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