Solomon Islands: A growing population is straining the dedicated work of the country’s medical personnel and on the NRH as the sole referral hospital
I believe it is fair to say few will disagree that the MOHMS has done good work in responding to the COVID-19 threat and the front line personnel of the MOHMS, inclusive of doctors and nurses, are continuing to monitor the threat and prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus case being detected.
The preparations for dealing with any COVID-19 case has been greatly aided by the Solomon’s donor partners and seen the National Referral Hospital (NRH) provided with a Intensive Care Unit and two Isolation Wards and equipment for testing. A quarantine facility has also been built at the International Airport.
There can be no question that the COVID-19 threat has put increased pressure on the MOHMS and at a time when the National Health Service is having to increasingly deal with communicable and non communicable diseases.
The new population figures and demographics revealed in the last census, over 686,884 people, serves to underscore the strain on the MOHMS and especially on the NRH with relatively few doctors and nurses at the referral hospital and far fewer doctors and nurses in the rural areas where people still rely on a nurse run provincial primary care system.
Moreover, many of the Rural Health Centres are run down and more than 70% needing costly upgrades, major repairs or extensive renovations.
I recall that the condition of area health centres and rural health clinics was assessed in 2005 and again in 2012.
Both of those surveys outlined the then urgent need for upgrades and many such facilities were operating without water, sanitation and electricity.
The surveys also told of old and poorly maintained medical, diagnostic and surgical equipment.
In 2016, the country’s health system had significant weaknesses and moves were subsequently made to improved things with the formulation of a ‘Role Delineation Policy RDP) then being an essential part of the National Health Strategic Plan – 2016-2020. The RDP was set to be implemented in the rural provinces from 2017.
Already 4 months into 2020, one has been shocked to learn most recently that rural medical services in the Western Province have been found, following inspection, to be ‘unimaginable’
What seemingly de-railed the Role Delineation Policy set to bring the much needed improvements to health care and health facilities?
COVID-19 despite the deadly threat it poses has served to see an outpouring of help to the Solomon Islands MOHMS from friends like, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the WHO, the EU, Japan and the new diplomatic partner China.
Will Solomon Islands strategically located (in the actual and geo-political context) receive further aid from its partners, including South Korea which aided medical services in the past, to bring about the reforms identified as needed four years ago in the RDP?
Such reforms must include removing the strain on the NRH, as the sole referral hospital, for the demands on its services and those of the medical and nursing staff is clearly obvious in the circumstances I have described.