Aiding healthcare capacity amid lacking resources

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DEAR EDITOR, the Solomon Islands has a total population, according to the last census, of about 600,000 but the population is estimated to exceed 1 million by 2050.

Against this backdrop, the Solomon Islands is still one of the least developed island states in the Western Pacific with continuing high rates of unemployment, especially amongst youths, and little or no income for rural people struggling to make a living by subsistence farming and increasingly facing the threats brought about by climate change.

According to an article from one visiting doctor from Australia he said (quote)

“The community here face significant health challenges and on multiple fronts. They lack even the basic health infrastructure, and universal access seems an almost impossible health policy goal. Despite this, I found the healthcare teams here work with courage and resolve.

“Persisting social disparities mean they face significant health challenges through what is termed the “triple burden” of disease. The community deals with communicable diseases alongside rising rates of non-communicable diseases combined with the threat of climate change which we know already hits hard too regularly.”

Quoting from the same article, the doctor went on to write:

“It is clear that the underdevelopment of healthcare infrastructure compounds inequalities.

“In Pacific Island countries, including the Solomon Islands, there is a high need for basic critical care resources. Equipment such as oximeters and oxygen concentrators are needed as well as greater access to medications and blood products and laboratory services. [iii]

“A cross-sectional survey study examining critical care resources in the Solomon Islands found that inadequate resources from primary prevention and healthcare contribute to the high degree of critical illness. This study suggested that the solution lies in simple therapies and context-appropriate resources to mitigate the high burden of morbidity and mortality.

“Therefore, the emphasis should be on the development and acquisition of simple and inexpensive tools rather than complicated equipment. This helps to prevent critical care from diverting resources away from other important parts of the health system.

“Empowerment is key to improving health service development in the Solomon Islands. The focus needs to be on strengthening the health system and improving access to services but bringing health care to these areas is no easy task.

“It needs a partnership which filters right down to the community level. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is really working hard towards enabling these partnerships to ensure a more planned approach to funding health services.

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“Australia is the largest provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Solomon Islands, providing almost two-thirds of overseas aid in 2016-17.

“Since 2008, the MHMS, with their development partners including Australia, has led a sector-wide approach to the delivery of health services in the Solomon Islands.

“The overall program goal is to improve the access and quality of universal health care in the Solomon Islands.

“The current funding supports the Solomon Islands National Health Strategic Plan 2016-2020 and provides direct budget support, performance-linked funding and technical assistance.

“It is clear that Australia is doing its fair share for the Solomon Islands. There is now alignment in terms of ensuring best outcomes from this funding. This will certainly help build health services for this nation. But there is always more to do.”

I am certainly in full agreement that more can be done and why I believe the partnership arrangement with Take My Hands (TMH) my partner charity in New Zealand needs renewing with the second payment (of NZ25,000) being paid to see to the supply of medical equipment and medical supplies being shipped in up to 8 containers per year.

The container due to arrive in Honiara on 19 November contains two portable ultra-sound machines, in addition to 50 hospital beds and wheel chairs – all supplies very much in keeping with the desirability of obtaining the kind of things the medical services are in need of, according to what was mentioned in the visiting doctor’s informative article.

The idea occurs to me that there might be one or more organizations in the Solomons that might agree to share the costs of freighting medical equipment and medical supplies, regularly in need, via TMH on a 50 -50 basis very much in a similar way in which the Solomon Forest Association (SFA) helped out on many past occasions, although the SFA always went the extra mile and donated the full shipping costs.

I mention this thought because after the container arrives on 19 November, to be followed by a second one with 50 more hospital beds, TMH will not be able to continue helping the MOHMS/NRH, or the Hearts of Hope (HOH) charity unless the outstanding payment of NZ$25,000 is met and the terms of the existing MOU are fulfilled.

I would greatly like to hear from any organization willing to help and I can be contacted via the link on my website.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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