The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is conducting a review of past and current potential partnerships with hospitals overseas for patient referrals, the ministry announced in a statement.
MHMS said the previous partnership with St Vincent Hospital in Sydney, Australia for the 10 beds had come to a halt in 2017 due to certain issues.
“Efforts to revive this partnership is being revisited while other options are also under assessments and in discussions with bilateral partners through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade.
“As such, since 2017 the NRH Overseas Referral Committee (ORC) have been making referrals based on their professional network with specialists overseas and at times through the networks of visiting overseas medical professionals and private specialists. The biggest challenge however is with the limited funds to send an increasing number of our people who needed these overseas services.
“Each year, the ORC is allocated SBD2-million for overseas referrals of citizens based clinical criteria. Referrals are mainly to Australia where treatment alone can cost up to AUD 30 to 60 thousand (SBD$200,000 plus), let alone airfare, accommodation and food for the duration of stay overseas. A few to St Luke’s Hospital Philippines and Fiji.
“This is the reason why we are seeing an increasing number of family-organised fundraisings, including youth groups and other civil society groups coming on board to render support in mobilising funds for patients to receive treatment overseas, as this was the advice ORC is currently giving to patients when it has no funds to assist,” MHMS said.
MHMS said together with ORC, they commend the many individuals, families, groups, and organisations who have on many occasions stepped in to support in either organising and participating in these fundraising activities or directly providing funds.
But despite these challenges, MHMS said it and the government remain committed to finding ways to overcome these challenges.
MHMS said discussions with bilateral partners is continuing and in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, it remains optimistic that soon a partnership will be reached with one or two overseas hospitals.
“ In fact, two of our bilateral partners have already indicated interest to support us in this regard as part of their proposed health cooperation and MOUs have been drafted and shared with these partners.”
MHMS said there are also ongoing discussions with the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Children’s Hospital in Fiji to send children with correctable congenital heart problems for surgery there when Indian Cardiac surgical teams visit.
“This is an opportunity that will help with the backlog of children with heart problems on the waiting. It is hoped that we can start send some cases this year,” it added.
While work on this is ongoing, MHMS said it is also well aware of the importance of availing these services in the country and on this note, thanked the government and its partners.
“The CT Scan at NRH that is fully funded by the Solomon Islands Government is well serving our people and assisting medical staff in making more definitive diagnosis and treatment of patients who could have been otherwise advised to travel overseas for such service. Its findings help clinicians determine the next clinical steps of treatment and management, including suitability for overseas referral.
“The PRC-funded, Comprehensive Medical Centre that will be erected at the East wing of NRH will provide specialised services relating to cardiology (heart), nephrology (renal/ kidney) and urology care services and other services. It is anticipated that all related diseases can be properly assessed, investigated and managed.
“The new Dialysis Machine at NRH, also provided by PRC, will soon enable advanced treatment of kidney failure patients after medical assessment. Training is still ongoing for our doctors and nurses to operate the machine.
“The work on upgrading the NRH acute care ward (high dependency unit) for a 14-bed enhanced standard of care that is supported by Australia will also see specialised equipment and upskilled medical staff caring for acute cases admitted at the hospital once the project is completed at the end of this month as per the work schedule,” MHMS emphasised.
It said it is maintaining relationships with foundations, charity groups and organisations for yearly deployment of medical expertise and specialists to NRH which many have benefited from, let alone the skills and knowledge transferred to our local medical team.
“These are some of the outcomes reflective of current efforts to avail sub-specialised medical services in the country,” MHMS added.
MHMS said it acknowledges the many calls and concerns raised by the public to have these services available in the country.
“Be rest assured that we will work to our very best to achieve these, might not be today but at least we ensure progress is tracked and monitored, and obstacles to progress are dealt with accordingly and in a timely manner until our people can start benefiting from these services,” it added.
Source - Solomon Star News.
The steps being taken by the MHMS in conducting a review of past and current potential partnerships with hospitals overseas for patient referrals is welcome news but am initiative that is long overdue and it is inappropriate for families of sick patients to have to find the often large sums of money to help their sick loved ones offshore for often life saving medical treatment and often surgery.
The SIG and the DHMS should explore the costs of transferring sick patients to hospitals in India where there are many competent and highly skilled doctors, and where costs are cheaper than in Australia.
Yesterday in a piece that I wrote entitled "The Cries of the People," I laid bare the collective calls of the people that had communicated to me about the needs of screening programmmes for early signs of breast and cervical cancer for women testing for prostate cancer in men.
It is a fact that breast and cervical cancer are leasing causes of death amongst women in the Solomon Islands.
Those who communicated their views on the pertaining local health service also demanded to know why extra surgeons could not be recruited to serve at the NRH and when a surgeon could be trained to deal with cancer patients.
Another point raised was when would the NRH be allocated its own budget?
I would urge the government and the MHMS to ensure adequate funds are provided for those that are sick and urgently requiring specialist offshore treatment in the expectation of saving their lives. In my way of thinking this must be an absolute priority responsibility of the government.