6 August 2022
As one who tries to advocate for the health and treatment of sick patients in the Solomon Islands, with special focus on relaying internationally published medical breakthroughs on treatment options for the most serious illnesses, as well as recognizing the dedicated work of the doctors, nurses, ancillary medical staff of the National Referral Hospital and the professional personnel of the MHMS, I keep a close eye, albeit from afar, on local medical news, developments and reported improvements to overall health knowing, as I do the constraints so often imposed by budget limitations on health services.
I thank the Solomon Islands Government for having acquired a CT scan machine as a vital diagnostic tool and can say since it was brought into operation at the NRH, it has been valuable with diagnostics, staging and prognosis of cancers and been used to do CT angiograms for acute myocardial infarction. It has also proved useful in helping reduce costs for those patients referred overseas for definite treatments.
I have often been concerned by the lack of money for the transfer of suitably assessed patients at the NRH to be sent overseas for medical treatment and I am pleased to be able to say that the Overseas Referral Committee (ORC) at the NRH was comparatively recently was allocated by the government 2 million under the MHMS budget and this sum has seen 3 sick patients transferred offshore and 4 more are waiting for the Ministry of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to process their offshore treatment payments.
It is my current understanding that the ORC might need to request for a supplementary financial increase in funding from the MHMS as it is known additionally assessed patients have recently been accepted for overseas transfer by the ORC.
It should be remembered, as I have written in the past, the NRH has no independent budget to fund medical transfers to Australia, New Zealand or India, but this remains a serious concern to me especially given the numbers of NRH patients, including many young children, with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and there is now the case, I wrote about only yesterday, concerning a 3 year old boy said to have leukemia and needing urgent offshore medical attention.
Unlike in previous years, the NRH does not have any MOU with any particular hospitals in Australia, or in India so the NRH requests directly to private hospitals in Australia through specialists that came to the NRH in previous years to assist with operations and medical services, including on occasions conducting surgery. In turn those visiting specialist put the NRH requests to their own specialist colleagues and for acceptance.
Due to Covid-19 it has been some time since outside medical specialist visited the NRH, once a regular practice.
Now the Solomon Islands has officially opened its air borders again, I have some good news about a scheduled return of volunteer Australian doctors with a first visit of a medical team in October this year and more visits planned for relatively early in 2023, when a series of training courses will be conducted by the volunteer doctors.
The state of the modular building gifted to the NRH almost 3 years ago to replace the once functioning rehabilitation but demolished for more than 2 years is being readied, so I believe, and I hope to be able to write with an update on this facility quite soon along with details of amputees needing artificial or prosthetic limbs, mainly legs, to aid their independent mobility and possibly their return to wage earning in support of their families.
I have no news to report on the restoration of the previous 10 bed hospital and treatment arrangement with the Sydney based St Vincent’s hospital, but I can say the NRH still uses the services of the Solomon Islands Foundation, a registered charity trust, to see to aid for referred patients to specific Australian hospitals, such as the St George’s hospital in Sydney,
It is my current understanding, however, that the MHMS has not deposited any money with the Foundation and tends to pay directly to the hospital which the ORC refers the patient(s) to in Australia.
I read recently of an expatriate having been recruited to look into improvements into all aspects of improving basic health care and it would be helpful to learn of this person’s mandate, his specific terms of reference job wise, his recruitment source and the source and adequacy of funding resources he will access to undertake the mammoth task that awaits him in the Solomon Islands.
Guadalcanal Province has acknowledged the needs of its health service requirements, including the need for its own provincial hospital and specialist health services and appealed for outside donor support to match its requirements. With only one referral hospital in the country, the NRH, with a rising population in the Solomon Islands, with NCD related illnesses and diseases placing such a great burden on all health services, it seems to be me that “donor funding” for health services should come in the form of extra donor aid from existing diplomatic partners, or new ones, since there has recently been something of an acknowledgement in diplomatic circles that not enough attention has been given in the past couple of decades to Solomon Islands, given its geo-political, strategic location on the world stage.