Posted by : Posted on : 04-Nov-2018

4 November 2018

Two perspectives on the Solomon Islands medical services as the year comes to a close

It’s just seven weeks away from Christmas and where have the last 8 months gone?

As a senior citizen I believe many of my age feel time passes more quickly as we get older, a perception that can lead to regrets.

I am told psychologists say that when it comes to how we perceive time, humans can estimate the length of an event from two very different perspectives: a prospective vantage while an event is still occurring, or a retrospective one, after it has ended.

In this piece, in referring to the Solomon Islands medical services, I want to focus on both past happenings and those ongoing.

Very often I have written about the run down state of the country’s rural community health centres and health clinics and the urgent need for their rehabilitation to be able to provide the core functions of medical service delivery to many in the community.

As individuals, every year, we tend to evaluate our choices; we look back and review what we did or didn’t. Every year, we promise to do things differently, we plan to change our habits to become a person who we’d prefer to be.

From the perspective of the Solomon Islands government, therefore, I hope an evaluation of this year will bring forth more commitment, as was promised, to do things differently and see to the early restoration of rural health care facilities.

In doing things differently I have to say, I have been greatly encouraged in the past few months with the opening of two new rural health clinics in West Guadalcanal.

The Provincial Premier, Anthony Veke, officially handed over the two rural health clinics to the people of Kusumba and Wanderer Bay.

The two clinics had been long awaited as the sick, and especially mothers and children had previously to travel many hours to get to the nearest clinic at Tangarare or Fox Bay.

Often their journey necessitated crossing flooded rivers and crocodile infested waters.

Premier Veke is believed to have pushed for the Kusumba clinic to be completed and had approved Dr Silent Tovosia’s proposal for an ADRA funded clinic for Wanderer Bay community.

The Kusumba rural health clinic was funded by the Guadalcanal Provincial Government under the Provincial Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) whilst the Wanderer Bay RHC was built by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency -ADRA Solomons, with volunteers from Australia under a tripartite arrangement with Guadalcanal Province and local communities.

I took encouragement, too, with the news that the Tawaro health clinic in the East of Small Malaita, which was built in 1969 and had been semi-derelict, had received building materials provided by the Ministry of the Environment with help from the World Bank.

In the early months of the year, came the news of a ground breaking ceremony in Honiara for a new diabetic centre, specialist clinic and nurses hostel to be built by Taiwan.

The project is believed to cost in the region of SBD$ 6.5 million.

Currently the National Referral Hospital (NRH) is undergoing refurbishments and construction of new facilities funded by Taiwan and other donor partners.

 Infrastructure and maintenance are very important towards NRH’s service delivery as improvements will provide space, proper facilities and equipment which are the core functions for service delivery

Diabetes is one of the most serious health concerns in the Solomon Islands and there is much more need for proper nutrition and dietary control which play a very large part in controlling non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and strokes.

The Taiwanese Government played a significant role in past months in educating communities on the need for better nutrition and continues to give help and guidance in combatting NCD’s.

More recently, with an increase in breast cancer cases in the country, especially in young women, Surgeon Dr Chung-Liang Li from Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital’s (KMUH) Division of Breast Surgery has been active in speaking to the media about the need for women to be educated about the kind of diet that can lead to breast cancer.

He was claimed to have said that a diet of full of red meat like pork or beef, too much rice, oily foods and too much sugar can lead to high risks of breast cancer.

In relation to nutrition and diet the SIG Health Ministry has been seen as committed to addressing the sustainable development goals (SDG) with the government’s delineation policy (RDP) but only when the RDP becomes fully implemented will the professional health services that can be accessible at the community rural health centres and rural health clinics be evident.

A couple of specialists from Kaohsiung Medical University’s Department of Parasitology have recently been conducting practical training programmes at three schools in Guadalcanal province.

 According to the Taiwan Health Centre in Honiara, intestinal parasites are widespread in tropical and sub-tropical areas to which Solomon Islands is no exception.

“During the workshops, the two experts, Professor June-Der Lee and Jiun-Jye Wang introduced amoeba, malaria and intestinal parasites, prevention measures and carried out practical training programmes. They also voiced that healthy living habits and hygiene are vital factors to parasite infection prevention. Dr Lee and Wang urges students and communities to follow healthy living habits such as washing their hands before eating, before and after using the toilet, drinking boiled water and making sure that feet are covered by wearing slippers or footwear to avoid parasite infection.” (Source – Island Sun newspaper)

Just last month, Prime Minister Rick Hou welcomed commitments by an Australian philanthropist to purchase a new Computed Tomography (CT) scan for the National Referral Hospital (NRH).

 Lady Primrose Potter the Australian philanthropist shared with the Prime Minister her willingness to raise funds to purchase the CT scan; when she met with the Prime Minister. Prime

Lady Potter was reported to have said a CT scan is vital equipment; a diagnostic imaging test used to help detect diseases of the small bowel, colon and other internal organs and is often used to determine the cause of unexplained pain.

 She told the PM, “I am willing to assist and I will do my best to help raise funds to purchase a new CT scan for the NRH,”

The PM apparently said, “If this is purchased (a CT scan) it would go a long way in helping citizens in the country.”

“It will also cut costs of sending people overseas and also provide surgeons accurate results when testing patients.

 “This is welcoming news and I hope we can be able to work together to get this machine into the country as soon as possible.”

Lady Potter AC is an Australian philanthropist and arts administrator. She is the widow of Sir Ian Potter and currently Patron-in-Chief of The Solomon Foundation, a charity that supports various social development projects in The Solomon Islands.

Equipment needs for the MOHMS and the NRH continue to feature in the news, as did most recently, the critical shortages of drugs and medical supplies at the NRH and health clinics.

The quick intervention of several donor partners and individuals, including local community organizations, helped to re-stock the drugs shortages and all are to be thanked for such swift and generous intervention.

Hospital beds and wheel chairs are still needed at the NRH and at two provincial hospitals but help is also on the way with 100 hospital beds and some 30 wheel chairs being shipped in two 40 foot containers from ‘Take My Hands, my charity partner in New Zealand.

The sea freight for the two containers having been met with a kind donation in excess of US$11,000 from the Solomon Islands Forest Association (SFA).

In closing, I thank all those who have helped the Solomon Islands medical services in upholding the objectives of health care for all and look forward to learning of more positive gains in all areas of medical services and delivery, especially in the rural areas of the country.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short



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