18 November 2022
The Opposition Leader in the Solomon Islands, Hon Matthew Wale, has an important constitutional role to play in his position as a “watchdog” on government’s actions and policies and today had some strong words to say about the recent flooding at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in Honiara.
Quoting some of what he is claimed to have said, as reported in an Opposition Press statement, read.
“It seems the government does not have an alternative plan to address this (flooding) issue and authorities are treating this as business as usual.
“There has to be a better approach to resolve this on-going problem unless some people are not doing their job.”
”It is unfortunate that the government is misleading people to believe and announcing in Parliament that our NRH is improving when the recent flooding clearly indicates that NRH has gone from bad to worse.
“Aware that the NRH Evacuation plan is on standby and there are MOUs with various organizations to evacuate people if it becomes worse.
“While it is practical to have these arrangements in place, evacuating people should be the last resort.
“The immediate option is to fix the drainage and leaking roofs urgently,”
“This (flooding) is an issue amongst many others that should push the Government into prioritizing the relocation plan of NRH.
“We cannot wait another 10 years to relocate NRH. And we cannot continue to allow the current NRH to face these problems every wet season for the next 10 years.”
End of quote.
As I have alluded to, Mr. Wale has a constitutional responsibility to speak out on such matters as he raised today about the flooding that has again occurred at the NRH.
I have no such rights to raise such concerns, but I do continue to have personal concerns for the welfare and health issues pertaining to the citizens of the Solomon Islands and my concerns were very much heightened during the week by several reports relating to health and health service needs.
I will quote just a few of the reports that caused my concern.
Number 1 - Six of 10 people here die of Non-Communicable Diseases
NCD diseases such as diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, cancers and mental illnesses have reached a crisis point, with 40 percent of hospital beds being taken up by NCD patients.
This was highlighted in the National Health Strategic Plan 2022-2031 launched in Honiara last week.
The report says more than 6 out of 10 deaths, or approximately 70 percent of deaths in the country, are attributable to NCDs.
“Therefore, the prevention and control of NCDs is a priority in this strategic plan that demands a whole of society response, with engagement from all relevant agencies and organizations and communities,” the report says.
Furthermore, the report says NCDs require a whole of government and whole of society approach to be effective; our response cannot rely solely on one programme.
“It will require all parts of the health sector to work together to address this health crisis.
“Preventive measures will address several risk factors,” report says.
Further to that, the report says other measures will require us to collaborate with other sectors, including education, trade and agriculture, and key influencers such as churches.
“We will need different tools to modify behaviours, including legislation and taxation,” the report says.
Moreover, the report says they will need to ensure they provide services for the most vulnerable groups.
“We need to review and overhaul services and support for persons with disability, and investigate the potential to provide rehabilitative services for this group and those experiencing amputation due to diabetes complications.
“Increased attention should also be paid to sexual and reproductive health services in the provinces, including adolescent sexual health,” the report says.
Most importantly, the report says health promotion information and services must be provided to the target audience in the most appropriate language.
Source – Island Sun newspaper.
I followed up the report in a comment, saying -
Cigarette smoking in the Solomon Islands is excessive, including smoking by many youths, but it is perhaps not realized that smoking is the biggest factor behind small cell lung cancer, as confirmed by many medical institutions worldwide”
I also expressed my concerns regarding the health challenges facing the nation in a separate piece posted on Linkedin and my website – www.solomonislandsinfocus.com which read in part.
Number 2 " (A repeated health warning) Solomon Islands is now at the crossroad and faces important health challenges that could undermine development gains made to date."
This was highlighted in the health sector overview in the National Health Strategic Plan 2022-2031 launched at FFA Headquarters on Monday.
The report states in particular, the incidence of non communicable diseases (NCDs) has reached a crisis point and threatens to overwhelm the health system if aggressive steps are not taken to halt and reverse this trend.
Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, cancers and mental illnesses have reached a crisis point, with 40 percent of hospital beds being taken up by NCD patients.
More than 6 out of 10 deaths, or approximately 70 percent of deaths in the country, are attributable to NCDs.
“Therefore, the prevention and control of NCDs is a priority in this strategic plan that demands a whole of society response, with engagement from all relevant agencies and organizations and communities,” the National Health Strategic Plan 2022 – 2031 has revealed.”
End of quoted extract.
Number 3 -A STEPS Household-based survey shows that most people are not living a healthy lifestyle.
The survey was conducted to obtain core data on the establishment of risk factors that determine the major burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
This was highlighted by Undersecretary Health Improvement and Control, Dr Nemia Bainivalu in his keynote address during the ‘World Diabetes Day’ in Honiara on Monday this week. The event was held at SIBC Headquarters in Rove.
“…and the survey for diabetes showed that 87 percent of respondents are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, 18.6 percent have inadequate physical activity and 18.3 percent alcohol abuse.
“During the survey, 59.5 percent of survey participants were overweight and obese with 20.1% percent prediabetes and 14.3 percent with diabetes,” he said.
Pre-Diabetics are people who potentially might have diabetes.
With this high unhealthy lifestyle statistics, Dr Bainivalu, Head of the Internal Medicine Department at the National Referral Hospital (NRH), Dr Jones Ghabu and Head of the NRH Surgical Department, Dr Rooney Jagilly, urged people to eat healthy foods and live a healthy lifestyle.
Source – Island Sun newspaper.
Number 4 - Progress in child health but more still to be done
The Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Children and Adolescent Health Programme has made good progress over the previous planning period, but there is still work to be done.
For example, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are steadily increasing, and chlamydia is prevalent among pregnant women; therefore, addressing the high incidence of STIs is a priority.
This was noted in the National Health Strategic Plan 2022-2031 launched in Honiara last week.
Further to that, the report says the trend over the past decades have shown steady increase in cancer incidence that Ministry of Health and Medical Services has recorded, with cervical cancer topping the list, followed by breast cancer.
“Therefore, we need to focus on the provision of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for our young people, and we need to increase both cervical and breast screenings for women of reproductive age,” the report says.
Apart from that, Solomon Islands has one of the highest domestic and sexual violence rates globally.
The report says too many Solomon Islands women are married before age 18, with parents believing an early marriage will protect their daughters and provide them with economic opportunities.
“The contraceptive prevalence rates for married and all women have steadily improved since 2015,” report says.
Furthermore, in terms of pregnancy and childbirth, prematurity and sepsis are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality for neonates.
Furthermore, the report states the still birth, prenatal mortality, infant mortality and under 5 death rates are still too high.
The report also says the percentage of children immunized who have received on dose of the measles vaccine is 99.1 percent.
It says the combined DTPS (diphtheria, tetanus toxoid and pertussis) coverage is 94 percent, with 40 percent of districts achieving more than 80 percent coverage.
Moreover, the report says a total of 9.7 percent of children are malnourished, with 29.30 percent stunted.
The report further says the percentage of overweight children under age 5 is per cent.
It says acute respiratory illness was experienced by 595 in every 1000 children.
“Reducing the number of child deaths is a foremost priority for the programme and, sadly, we are making no real headway with our efforts to reduce neonatal mortality, with children under 1 year dying at similar rates to a decade ago,” the report says.
Source – Island Sun newspaper.
Just when all hoped there had been an end to Covid- at home, there came two reports of a further outbreak of the pandemic at home, and again I quote the details from local newspaper stories and a press release from the MHMS.
An outbreak of Covid-19 has been declared for Temotu Province in Solomon Islands, with more than 400 cases reported in the nine days to Tuesday morning.
The Solomon Times reports that in response, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services has deployed a team of medical and public health workers to the province.
The deployment is in response to a request from the provincial Health Service based on the increasing number of cases, critical staff shortages and other gaps in its response to Covid-19 community transmission.
The team will provide support to Lata Hospital nurses to manage cases in the isolation ward, support infection prevention and control compliance, and boost their capacity for swabbing, data entry and epidemiological reporting of cases.
Also, Honiara is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases with 104 positive cases recorded during the period 24th October to 8th of November.
1072 persons in Honiara were tested during that period.
There are no persons hospitalized with COVID-19 and no COVID related deaths reported by the National Referral Hospital since the new surge in cases.
As highlighted in the recent media release last week, genome sequencing to identify the type of variant from samples sent overseas showed Omicron sub-variant BA.4 and BA.5 as the predominant variants causing the resurgence.
To date, these sub-variants do not appear to be causing more severe disease; however, they do spread easily.
As such MHMS would like to reiterate COVID-19 safe measures which include:
- Wear face masks in public spaces and on public transportation at all times if possible.
- Frequent hand washing with soap or hand sanitizer at all times.
- Cough into bent elbow or tissue and dispose of it properly at all times
- Implement social distancing of at least two (2) meter.
- Avoid large gatherings as much as possible.
- Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who are not yet vaccinated are encouraged to get vaccinated at your nearest health clinic and those who are fully vaccinated should get a booster.
Schools and workplaces and other spaces and places where people congregate are to uphold these measures.
Parents and guardians are urged to keep their children at home if they see signs of coughing, runny nose, and fever and take them to the nearest clinic if these symptoms worsen.
The National Medical Store is ensuring rapid test kits are available across health facilities.
The COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide good protection against severe disease and those who have not had the full course should strongly consider getting vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Even though this Omicron subvariant BA.5 does not appear to be the cause of more severe disease than previous subvariants, we need to continue protecting those most of risk including people over 60 years and those with illnesses that affect their immunity.
If you develop severe symptoms of COVID such as difficulty breathing, immediately seek care and nearest health facility.
End of quotes.