25 April 2019
Solomon Islands: General health challenges putting greater strain on the NRH and a hospital doing more with less.
A tsunami in 2007 in the Solomon Islands devastated the hospital in Gizo and a year before that terrible incident the Solomon Islands Government had requested the Government of Japan for a grant in aid to construct a new building adjacent to the then standing old one which would have been relocated.
The tsunami effectively put a stop to any relocation.
In 2011, four years after the tsunami, the Japanese government handed over a new state of the art hospital in Gizo to the Solomon Islands government at an official ceremony.
At the time, the then Secretary for Health Improvement, Dr Cedric Alependava, said the new sixty bed hospital had two operating theatres and would serve 100,000 people in Western Province, Choiseul and part of Isabel.
The facility was funded and built by the Japanese government and had state-of-the-art facilities with the then latest medical equipment.
The Gizo hospital reconstruction was an outstanding contribution to health services and a demonstration of the close cooperation and partnership between the two governments – partnership that continues in 2019.
I really hesitate to use tsunami but essentially something big needs to happen to transform the National Referral Hospital with its ongoing shortages of doctors, nurses, specialist and support staff, equipment needs, diagnostic tools, facilities, finance, and being continually being challenged to do more with less.
In general terms, the country faces important health challenges that could undermine development gains made to date. The demographic profile exacerbates these challenges.
Increasing numbers of young women reaching reproductive age increases the need for maternal, newborn and child health services. At the same time, more people are living longer or reaching old age; this change, combined with the high prevalence of risk factors, is causing growth in non-communicable diseases and related disabilities, as well as an increase in premature deaths.
With per capita spending on health, estimated at a little more than SB$600, the health system currently manages to ensure equitable access to basic health services through a network of primary care facilities and outreach services.
The challenge facing the incoming government (and donors) is to strengthen the system, and especially the NRH, within very real financial and human resource constraints.
The NRH suffers constantly from such problems as shortage of medical professionals, dilapidated facilities, old equipment and insufficient budget allocation.
The “National Development Strategy 2011–2020” prioritizes qualified healthcare, and its implementing plan “Medium-Term Development Plan 2014–2018” intended to provide qualified secondary medical services to the entire nation by 2018, but on existing evidence it did not.