NFP response to Health Minister’s statement on medicine shortage

RESPONSE TO MINISTER AKBAR – Ministerial Statement

By Hon Parmod Chand (Tuesday April 25, 2017)

Madam Speaker, I thank the Minister for her statement. At the outset, let me say that we are thoroughly disappointed with her explanation. Like many other issues affecting our nation, this Government is paying lip service to the fundamental issue of providing basic health care to our citizens in our health centres and public hospitals.

Madam Speaker two months ago, we highlighted the shortage of chemicals used to process x-ray films were denying patients the right to get x-rayed and diagnosed.

This problem remains unresolved. The Minister has to be reminded what she said in Parliament when this issue was raised by Hon Prem Singh on 10th February 2017.

And what transpired in the last two months is relevant to what was said by the Minister regarding the issue of medicine. I will demonstrate how this will be another one of the same old story – they call it NATO Madam Speaker – No Action Talk Only.

The Honourable Minister had said only wet film processing, which is processing a film after an x-ray is done was not being conducted but dry film processing and digital imaging were being conducted.

She said wet film processing was being phased out but chemicals would be arriving at the end of the month (which is February).

February has come and gone. The situation hasn’t changed.

I want to ask the Minister: –

Does the Minister know what is happening in her Ministry?

For example, despite her assurance to this Parliament two months ago– the major hospitals don’t have chemicals to process X Ray films? Patients incur costs to come to hospitals only to be told they cannot get x-rayed.

Last week a patient from Nadi who has a fractured femur (thighbone) hired a taxi and came to Lautoka hospital on his designated day of review and x-ray. He was told x-ray could not be done and he had to pay $100 as taxi hire charges. Will the Ministry compensate him because it is not his fault that x-ray could not be done. The Hospital did not even have the decency and courtesy of informing him and the public through the media that x-ray service was out of order.

Again last week a woman who is a cancer patient was taken for review and x-ray at the CWM Hospital. She could not be x-rayed because there were no chemicals to process the film.

Is this the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve?

They don’t want handouts, they want access to fundamental and basic service, Madam Speaker.

The 2013 Constitution has been much talked about as the savior of our nation and providing common and equal citizenry through its Bill of Rights.

Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, and I quote, “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to health and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health care services…”

38(3) of the Constitution states “…if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that resources are not available”.

Does the State have sufficient resources to provide access to health care for all? If it has then shortage and lack of medicine and medical supplies should not be an issue. We ask what has happened to allocation of a quarter million dollars in the last two budgets to hire consultants to streamline procurement procedures of medical supplies.

If private pharmacies can be sufficiently stocked with the list of medicines being listed as being in short and nil supply, why can’t the Fiji pharmaceutical service, which has millions of dollars at its disposal, or that is what is shown in the budget, be in a state of preparedness at all times?

And even when there is a shortage, why cannot it swiftly order medicine instead of the health ministry saying there is no estimated time of arrival when we have flights into our country daily and goods and services by the private sector are air freighted within a week?

Madam Speaker where there is a will there is a way. The Minister should know that cosmetic solutions and changes couldn’t be implemented to improve the fundamentals in the health ministry. Health is not about applying cosmetic and band-aid solutions.

It is about getting fundamental rights because health is wealth. Unfortunately the state of our public health has become blight on our nation.

Thank you Madam Speaker