TSI: Bed Shortage, Tip of Iceberg-NRH in focus

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Year after year the National Referral Hospital (NRH) our only hospital in the country providing health services that people could not access in the provincial hospitals is again in focus.  Year after year, the government has failed miserably to give the assistance and the financial support it needs to address the many issues raised by the sick patients, carers of the patients, the general public and health and medical workers themselves. Now the nation or the public is hearing it directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak, the Permanent Secretary (PS), the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NRH and the Head of the Emergency Department of the many complexities, chronic issues that have been left over the years unattended. These run from administration, management, planning, funding etc. of the NRH to provide the services that are needed in the country for the general public.

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The politicians of course the payments of tax-payers money to the tune of $1.5million per year for their lucrative medical insurance[?] scheme with Mustard Seed International do not have to worry about this.  To date the responsible public authorities, institutions of the government have failed to answer the questions about the nature of business run by Mustard Seed International.  What is it an Insurance Scheme, a Medical Insurance Scheme, under what law are they operating the scheme and more importantly are they qualified, experienced to run such as scheme?  Now why bring in the Mustard Seed International into the discussion of the National Referral Hospital? It is the opinion of Transparency Solomon Islands this scheme the government has made a decision for taxpayers to   pay for the politicians is because the services they need does not exist in the NHR. The permanent solution to this would be to improve the NHR to a status good enough for them in country where all taxpayers can enjoy that service. The $1.5 million is not enough to solve the problem but it is the rationale behind this scheme that is unacceptable.

Again, focus on health the youth were fund raising for a teenage girl to get heart operation as they did previously for another youth who needed such procedures where it is available.  The government, the Save the Children, UNICEF, UNWOMEN talk so much about children, and the girl child but when they needed help, they are nowhere to be found. The premier of Malaita Province although recommended, the Executive Government played its politics and refused to help him a clear case of abuse and misuse of trusted power belonging to the people.  The issue of the NRH again is commanding the front page of the papers and is the subject of nation-wide critics. The Executive Government has failed miserably not only to attend to the ongoing health need of its people but their demand for adequate health and medical services and an improved, safe, and secure environment from which our nurses, doctors and all medical workers to serve our people throughout the country. They cannot tell us there is not enough funds.  Transparency Solomon Islands says there must be for why it has increased the CDF to $6.8million this year.  The country switched allegiances, and of all the help we could ask, the NRH is a good one.  It is also important that any huge infrastructure must have a maintenance budget yearly to maintain it as well, calling for better planning and budgeting not only by the Ministry responsible but the government that is in power.

Back to the bed shortages of the NRH. It must be noted that the bed shortage at NRH is not a new thing, it has been there for years and little been done by the previous government, current Executive Government included. Even if they have the beds, do they have the space for the number of beds the patients they deal with? Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) did attend the press conference held by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) last week and most noticeable cramped space, the need for expanding the hospital to provide the spaces for beds needed at the outpatient and emergency section for the waiting sick patients. The country needs a much-enlarged outpatients and emergency facility.  This would go a long way to dealing with what is currently the case. The hospital is not without the land to expand and built new facilities.  It has that land to the east of the hospital commonly known in the 1990’s as the staff compound. This area TSI learned is occupied by former health workers on reasons of their retirement entitlements not being met by the government.  It is time now for the Minister of Health, the Permanent Secretary, the Commissioner of Lands and the Executive Government [Cabinet] work together to work out what are these outstanding entitlements and sort them out. TSI believes that working together is the way forward to ensure those involved can be paid their dues and relocated making that land free for NRH needs.

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It was revealed to TSI that many nurses and doctors are always late to work, and absent.  It was also shared that they are doctors who turn up at the workplace but fail to attend to the sick patients during their time shift. This is an administrative issue that can be easily addressed and must be addressed because it is grossly unfair and demoralizing to all who do their best, from cleaners to doctors who do their work. TSI calls on the CEO of the NRH and the PS of health to deal with such behavior and terminate them if only to bring back moral and motivation to those who do their work. The culture of laziness, absenteeism and lateness cannot be allowed to persist especially when our sick and the taxpayers pay them to attend to the sick.

Also, it is important to note that Honiara annual population growth was the highest in the last 10 years from 1999-2019 at a rate of 5.8%. In the same year the national annual growth rate was 2.7 %. This 5.8% is equivalent to an average of 5,700 people being added to the population every year for the last 10 years (1999-2019).  Between 1999-2019, Honiara had 57033 new residents or an increase of 78% in the last 10 years according to figures released by the SI Statistics Office. The data is collected to inform a country’s strategic planning for the services the country will require and what economic development to raise funds to provide those services and grow the economy. It is time now to plan for the health services needed by our country not only at the NRH, but the provincial hospitals, Taro hospital, Kirakira hospital, Lata hospital, the maintenance and upkeep of Gizo and Buala hospital, etc. It is only when people are healthy that they are engaged in economic activities, so keep us healthy and active and not only through the NRH but educational awareness out to the rural area on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, etc.  A person speaking with TSI one of its tours says, it would be good if awareness is done on sugar by the doctors.  For him he would like to hear from a doctor out there in the rural areas.

Lastly, Transparency Solomon Islands like to conclude with the case of Taro hospital in Choiseul Province which was visited on March this year. Taro hospital is a threat to both staff and sick patients there since the last visit by TSI this year to witness the deteriorating state of the hospital. The assurance by the PS Mrs. Pauline McNeil that the work on improving the Taro hospital is on the pipeline is a welcoming news for Choiseul Province. The PS hinted that there are two projects targeting the Taro hospital. One is for improving the existing one and the other is for the new hospital. PS revealed that funding for improving Taro hospital also comes under the covid-19 funding. It seems that if not for Covid-19 and its location on the country’s border with Bougainville, the Executive Government will continue to ignore the health needs of Choiseul Province as it has done for many years now. TSI was told by nurses in Taro that prior to the pandemic, Bougainvillians used Taro hospital sometimes for emergency cases due to its closeness. This speaks clearly of the need to have the Taro hospital rebuild, equipped and fully staffed with qualified health officials to manage given its location at the border and the fact that it is the only hospital relied on by the northern region of Choiseul and parts of Shortland islands.

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