Editorial comment – Our health care system

Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete (left) and Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong (right) receives the medical equipments from Esther Williams (middle) at CWM Hospital. Picture: RAMA/FILE

The revelation that Fiji’s health care system has challenges in its entire value chain will no doubt attract attention.

We are informed this ranges from inadequate infrastructure for early screening and diagnosis of disease, to availability of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals and their disposal.

As our report in yesterday’s edition noted, this is stated in the “Country Private Sector Diagnostic — Creating Markets in Fiji” report released by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which is a member of the World Bank Group.

Strengthening Fiji’s health care system, the IFC notes, will help address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) while positioning Fiji as a regional hub for health services.

Around 85 per cent of the deaths in 2019, it states, were due to NCDs.

“It is also estimated that, by 2040, the rising number of premature deaths caused by NCDs will cost Fiji’s economy roughly 10.9 per cent of the GDP. “On the other hand, there is a lack of affordable medical insurance which acts as a key constraint to developing private health care.”

However, the IFC states Fiji’s health sector is more developed in comparison with other Pacific island countries.

It says greater private sector participation in advanced diagnostic facilities, telehealth services, cardiac and cancer specialist care hospital, improved storage and distribution of pharmaceuticals and strengthened medical waste management could help optimise health care service delivery domestically and position Fiji as a regional hub.

We reported Ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr James Fong saying there were definitely challenges the ministry had to address to mitigate the growing NCD burden.

“I am glad that it is being highlighted in the many discussion forums across the country,” he said.

The adverse impact of impaired supply chains on the supply of laboratory reagents, laboratory equipment and related consumables, he said, was now more clearly visible.

“As travel borders begin to open, supply chains for international manufacturers of medicine and medical equipment are slowly recuperating, however, the impact on service provision is an acute problem.”

The revelations are important for they should ensure we are proactively engaged in ensuring our services meet accepted international standards.

We know where we are at, and as Dr Fong pointed out, there were definitely challenges the ministry had to address to mitigate the growing NCD burden for instance.

The positive roll-on impact will only be good for Fijians.

It is encouraging that the IFC has highlighted Fiji’s health sector is more developed in comparison with other Pacific island countries. It is obviously an issue that will attract mixed emotions though.

However, the comparison places us on a healthy pedestal and should provide some confidence in our systems.

We note though the need for greater private sector participation to help optimise health care service delivery right here, and position Fiji as a regional hub. So we know what must be done.

The challenge now is to set the processes in place that will address any shortcomings, and boost confidence in our health care system.

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