Dear Editor

"If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?"
John Adams

Over 80 percent of the Solomon Islands communities live in rural areas where geographic isolation and dispersed populations make the provision of even basic goods and services logistically difficult and expensive.

The Australian Government’s Direct Aid Program aims to improve livelihoods in some of the most remote and disadvantaged areas and we should all be extremely thankful of such targeted, meaningful help.

It is widely known that most, if not all, of the country’s 344 rural health clinics, generally staffed by experienced nurses, are run down and many needing urgent repairs and renovations in order to function effectively to serve the health needs of great numbers of local people.

In April this year the SIBC conducted a field trip to Choiseul and, on reading a report of that visit, I commented that I found it rather odd that complaints over local conditions and alleged shortages of development aid in the rural communities were, seemingly, not being better monitored and communicated to the national level, even if immediate remedies could be easily accommodated.

In recent weeks, in letters to the local newspapers, I have attempted to highlight the plight of the Gwaunaoa Rural Health Clinic where doctors have said patients are being put at risk when operating without electricity and having to use torches and kerosene lamps to attend to women giving birth. At theTingoa Mini Hospital a critical shortage of water tanks has meant the hospital turning away patients. Meanwhile, at the Manuopo Health Clinic, the situation is reported to be so critical the place is unfit for habitation and health services are suffering, placing a large community of over 5000 at risk.

In keeping with what I said about the SIBC’s field trip, why is that the needs of the rural clinics often requires a community representative or an individual health worker to resort to writing to the media to highlight the plight of their rural health services? Who monitors such shortcomings and brings them to the governments notice?

We seldom hear from those dedicated nursing professionals who daily struggle to meet their patients medical requirements with little equipment, supplies and accommodated in run-down clinics. There are truly some real heroines out there, dedicated and committed to their calling.

I would like to, respectfully, pose the question what the Solomon Islands Government plans to do to improve the state of the country’s health clinics, and I am sure many in the rural communities seek the same answer?

Through its Direct Aid Program Australia has provided, in recent times, AUD $2.7 to the Solomon Island’s Government to improve health care outcomes for all Solomon Islanders, with 40 per cent earmarked for the provinces to support hospitals and rural care centres performing lifesaving primary health care.

Australia has proven to be the largest donor to the Solomon Islands’ health sector since 2003 with AUD$ 80 million (from 2012-2016) to support the Solomon Islands Government achieve its national health objectives, under the National Health Strategic Plan.

Most recently, Australia’s Senator Ferriavante-Wells said the Australian Government will provide up to $66 million over the next four years to support key strategic health priorities in Solomon Islands.

If it is not too imprudent to be asking, will any of the $66 million aid to the Solomon Islands go towards the early development of static clinical and medical services, as part of outreach activities to the rural communities covering the length and breadth of the Solomon Islands?

In giving medical aid to the Solomon Islands, Australia works closely, of course, with many other regional and international organisations, and partner governments to support Pacific Island Countries ( including the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA, the World Bank and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) to improve health outcomes and all should all be thankful for such generous assistance.

One should not forget the help of New Zealand, Japan, the European Union, the Republic of China (on Taiwan) and helping charity organizations such as ‘Take My Hands’ (TMH), the Auckland based organization currently cooperating with the MOHMS and the NRH by way of a MOU to supply, annually, containers of medical equipment and supplies to the NRH, Provincial Hospitals and selective NGO’s, including the disabled and the Hearts of Hope charity.

The Honiara based National Referral Eye Hospital funded and built with New Zealand aid now provides excellent, free eye care to all Solomon Islanders and acts as a regional training hub for visiting eye care professionals.

While, today, I see the bigger picture in the Solomon Islands generally improving from the perspective of health care, I think of the many in the rural communities who are still deprived of basic health care facilities and my plea for help for them is the message I leave in this letter.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short