Lauru people crying for improved health and medical infrastructures – Taro hospital and Wagina clinic.

The broken floors along the corridor inside Taro hospital
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In its most recent face to face Community Awareness Outreach program to Choiseul Province covering South Choiseul Constituency, Moli and Taro in the North West Constituency, two of the urgent issue raised by those participating in the awareness sessions are, the dilapidated state of their Taro hospital and the delay in conducting by-election for the South Choiseul Constituency.

The hospital they said has been left to deteriorate for a number of years and is now no longer fit for purpose.  They lamented that a son of Lauru is now in a prime minister position for the fourth time and nothing much has been done to address the hospital needs of the people of Choiseul Province. In this 11th Parliament, not only is a son of Lauru holding the position of Prime Minister but a son of Lauru is also holding the position of the Minister of Finance.  Not only that but a son of Lauru is the Secretary to Cabinet and a Chief of Staff as well. Their cries for the maintenance of their hospital to be fit for purpose fell on deaf ears as there was no action to date.

The deterioration has been there for a number of years. They do not understand why the three members of Parliament who represented them in the 9th and 10th Parliament did not work together to do something about the hospital both at the national level and at the Constituency level. In the 9th Parliament each of the Constituencies of Choiseul Province received and spend a total of $19,300,000.00 [CDF], public funds channeled through their Member of Parliament and in the 10th Parliament the amount was $26,500,000.00. There was also $4,000,000.00 for each constituency under the Discretionary Fund allocated under the Parliamentary Entitlement Regulation for charitable purposes. With the positions they hold in the government, and the funds channeled through them they could have fixed the hospital. According to them the hospital is the unhealthiest house there is, unsafe for doctors, nurses, and patients alike. 

Broken toilet left inside the abandoned children’s ward.

They lamented that they have raised this time and again and noted that during this 11th Parliament the Prime Minister has visited the hospital twice and yet there is nothing at all with regards to fixing the hospital and commitment to an alternative arrangement such as assistance to Sasamungga Hospital as an interim arrangement whilst the Taro hospital is pulled down and re-built.  Having failed in their cry for the maintenance of the hospital they requested that Transparency Solomon Islands, visit the hospital see for itself what they are talking about and make public their cry for the government and for any donor or development partner come to their rescue.  A Catholic Sister puts it this way with regard to the use of CDF and the hospital quote “ solar/kapa[roofing iron, solar/kapa, year in year out, never ending cycle as every year people get married and more solar/kapa.  Enough of solar/kapa but spend CDF on hospital, schools, sanitation, water supply that will be needed by the children of the never-ending solar/kapa.  Solar/kapa is individual and only buying votes.  Use CDF for what will benefit the majority first such as the Taro Hospital”.

After the awareness session in Taro on the 9th March, Transparency Solomon Islands visited the Taro hospital on the 10th March and confirmed what the people of Lauru are concerned about.  The deteriorating condition of Taro hospital in Choiseul Province, is such that the risk and danger allowances paid to nurses and doctors should be greatly increased for working in such conditions. The hospital is no longer safe for both doctors and nurses and their patients and needs immediate action.  The country is going through a health crisis with Covid-19 pandemic and this hospital showcases the fragile health infrastructure and health and medical services provided in the province of Lauru.  Wagina is the same.  The clinic is now run from a classroom and has been like that for a number of years.  Whilst this is the case millions of dollars in the name of Constituency Development Fund no one knows where it has gone or spent.

The Taro hospital environment is an unsafe and unhealthy environment for doctors and nurses and sick patients seeking medical treatment there. The building used as hospital wards for sick patient has gone past the deteriorating phase and is now a hazardous place for humans to use. The buildings should no longer be use as a hospital to serve sick patients. TSI agreed with the head of the Taro hospital that the proper and responsible thing to do now is to close down the hospital building for the safety of both medical and health staff and the patients.

Operation theater inside the shut-down Taro hospital still used to treat minor surgical cases. Noted that the walls are infested with termites

A visit inside the building was a life-threatening experience to TSI official who had to walk carefully on decaying floors along the corridors, with some broken parts that if not careful any could accidently fall through to the ground while walking. The abandoned equipment used in the wards and beds were left idle for dust and rust. The Ablution blocks inside separate wards were but remains of unused sink and broken toilet pans. The entire building is now a home to termites that silently breed in their nests are visible on the walls and floor. The current state of Taro hospital could be described as a stage for filming horror movies of ghosts. It was completely unfit for humans to even visit, let alone using it.

A nurse working at Taro hospital shared with Transparency Solomon Islands that twice her leg went through a broken floor while carrying out her nursing duties. A medical doctor spoken to said that the building housing the hospital wards and the operation theater is now more dangerous to the lives of people than the disease they treat at the hospital. The doctor said the roofs are leaked and during rain times the water poured all over the floors along the corridors.

Since the global covid-19 pandemic, the sector in the government that has received millions of dollars from both taxpayers and aid donors is the health sector. More money and aid were poured into the country to support the work of the health authorities to counter covid-19 in Solomon Islands. Could some of these be used to address the hospital need of Choiseul Province.  The hospital is at the border and it makes sense to improve or do something about it now than later.  Coming to Honiara they said is now very expensive. It is shared with Transparency Solomon Islands that referred patients and those who care for them must meet their return fare making health services inaccessible to the rural sick and poor.  Most of the funds raised from the exploitation of their natural resources is used to support the growing need of urban life or remitted overseas. Nothing much is poured back to improve health services in the rural for the customary owners of these customary properties. Could some of these funds be considered for funding of improve health infrastructures in the health centers in provincial township. Could there be a better formular for sharing of benefits of the exploitation of natural resources with the provincial government?. Is this a way forward.

Taro Hospital is located on the country’s border with Papua New Guinea (PNG) and with the current rise in Covid – 19 infection in PNG and a very likely border for the virus to enter into the country.  It must be prepared to handle such a situation. Currently most of this hospital is shut down but as and when needed for example in the operating theatre doctors, and their patients still go into these very unsafe areas providing what medical service they can to their patients. Getting health and medical services close to the people is better than bringing them to Honiara, Gizo etc.

Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the Executive Government to hear the cries of the people of Lauru for a hospital facility and take whatever action necessary to bring the service close and back to their province.  The people of Lauru call on the Executive Government, any development partner listening for urgent assistance.  The Lauru people call on the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, the Secretary to Cabinet, the Permanent Secretary of Health and Medical Services, all sons and daughter of Lauru for this urgent need. They urge that you do all you can to provide Choiseul with a hospital from which Lauru people can receive health and medical services.  It is a first ask of its kind they said.

TSI was also requested to visit Wagina which was also in an awful state. The clinic of Wagina has been long abandoned and temporarily relocated to a classroom at Wagina Primary School. The classroom where the nurses used to see sick patients at Wagina is unsafe being located in an old building unfit for children to use as classroom, as it could collapse at any time. There being no other alternative the clinic is now located here however unsafe.  This too needs addressing urgently.

But enough of Transparency Solomon Islands telling the story.  Let the pictures tell their own story.  This is happening because of the misuse and abuse of public funds that could have gone into providing people with better services be it social or economic.  In all of this and as part of its advocacy awareness Transparency Solomon Islands reminded participants that they can make the change for the better by not corrupting candidates campaigning, by holding them to account once in government and by influencing Political Parties vying for their vote. VOTE Party Policy, Influence Party Policy, and Demand delivery of election promises.