Posted by : Posted on : 17-Jul-2020

Upgrading and infrastructural development of rural health clinics and Rural Area Heath Centres

I was encouraged to read in an article last August by Ms Tana St George, the WHO Representative in the Solomon Islands, of her visit to Aola in east central Guadalcanal where she visited the local health clinic.

The report went into some detail about health care at the clinic and the fact that many local women opt to travel to Honiara to have their babies delivered at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) where it was claimed they would get better care.

Ms St George said things were about to change at Aola, however, because of then plans for the refurbishment of the Area Health Clinic, as part of the SIG programme to reform the entire health system to provide quality health care for all Solomon Islanders.

Ms St George cited the ‘Role Delineation Policy, as the country roadmap towards universal health coverage, including infrastructure development. She mentioned that the WHO had been integrally involved in the development of the Policy, and had worked with the Ministry of Health to design and develop standards for health care facilities as well as supporting reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health programmes.

Ms St John said, quote,

“Aola is one of 34 Area Health Centres earmarked for renovation and, with funding from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and technical support from WHO, it will be among the first to be completed.

“The centre supports around 3,000 people, and employs a nurse and a midwife. The project will see the old, dilapidated clinic completely remodelled and a new septic tank and running water installed, along with toilets and showers. There will be a confidential space for the care for survivors of violence and sexual abuse – a first for the country – and separate wards for male and female patients, as well as a new delivery suite and a pharmacy. Solar panels will provide electricity, including lighting for emergencies, 24 hours a day. And the access road will be improved.

All going to plan, construction should get under way in October this year. In the meantime, nursing staff will continue to provide basic care in a temporary clinic while the renovations are going on.

“Beyond “bricks and mortar”

“The significance of this project, however, goes beyond mere “bricks and mortar”. East central Guadalcanal has high infant mortality rates and low childhood vaccination rates, compared to the rest of the country. Once the renovation is done, there will be a fulltime doctor based at Aola and staff will be able to provide full obstetric care before, during and after delivery, including ultrasound scanning, and early newborn care.”

If it is not too imprudent to ask, have the 34 Area Health Centres yet seen the renovations with funding from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)?

My concern for rural health clinics and Area Health Centres remains in mid-2020, as it has for many years, but all the more now that the threat of coronavirus remains central to overall health issues and especially given that the few remaining functional rural health clinics and Area Health Centres have no resident doctors and just a few dedicated nurses, often without equipment and medical supplies to do their work.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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