Medical service to Fiji

Dr. Isoa Bakani infront of his office in Suva. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

AT 86, Dr Isoa Bakani does not show any signs of letting up in his profession.

The heart specialist arrives at his office in Suva with the deftness of a much younger person.

He reads the daily newspaper and keeps up to date with the news.

In fact, it was a particular news piece that brought us to our brief conversation.

He had read up an article about the rise of Diabetes and other Non-Communicable Diseases in the country and wanted to express his thoughts on the matter.

Dr Bakani said he has seen many cases of heart diseases and has called for a “warpath” to deal with the problem.

“The traditional way of life and our development has been one of the main reasons why we have been victims of our own making,” he says.

“So unless we look at ourselves seriously the problem will continue to be there and can get worse. There is a real need for a warpath on this problem and the Ministry (of Health) should do something about it. Talking will not achieve anything. We’ve got some practical issues and the cause is there… the bad effects of processed foods and drinks need to be highlighted.”

What started as a fruitful discussion turned into an interesting story about the Ovalau man who reveals his profession as a doctor was not planned – it was in fact forced upon him.

Dr Bakani remembers that he and his senior classmates from Queen Victoria School were told to train as doctors on the advice of the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) to the colonial government at the time.

“We didn’t intend to go into the medical field but during our time the GCC passed a resolution and passed it to the government, that they needed a lot of doctors in the rural areas. So the order was given for the senior students of Ratu Kadavulevu School (RKS), Queen Victoria School (QVS) and Lelean Memorial School (LMS) to enter medical school. So we were taken to medical school without our consent. This was in the 1940s.”

“It was against our will but we had to do it. There were a lot of us, we went out and served the people and we didn’t regret it. We were part of the medical team that developed the medical service over the years.”

Born and raised in Lomaiviti, Dr Bakani attended Gau Sawaieke District School, then to QVS.

“During our time as medical students, we were very much involved in the development of medical service in major hospitals. We were sent to Auckland every year for three months,” Dr Bakani said.

“Our mentors – Dr Etika, Dr Seruvatu and Dr Naqasima went with us for the training because they were not available in Fiji. Even the training here is not quite as it is in other well established medical institutions. They have postgraduate training and so on. The facilities and manpower resources are not yet established in Fiji for post-grad training so we still need to go overseas. New Zealand, Australia and the UK are the best places to go to for training as they have the best systems that are similar to Fiji.

“In our time we established specialized services in Fiji which included medicine, family planning, surgery, obstetrics and oncology, anaesthetic with the help of specialized people from UK, NZ and Australia”

Looking back, Dr Bakani has fond memories of his time. A lot of his colleagues whom he started out with are no longer here today. But he endeavours to give his best in his work.

So what keeps him going?

“I don’t know, I try to live a normal life – do the things I don’t want to do and do things I have to do,” he smiled.

“But you will find that people that were brought up in the rural areas in their childhood, they tend to live longer compared to people in urban areas because rural areas people walked a lot and they work actively.”

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