New accommodation for medical students studying through the Fiji School of Medicine was opened at the National Referral Hospital by the Minister for Health and Medical Services, Charles Sigoto earlier this week.

Solomon Islands Government provided land and Australia gave around SBD$3.2 million (A$455,000) to build the student accommodation.

The opening was also attended by visiting Fiji Minister for Education and Culture, Filipe Bole, Dr Elizabeth Rodgers from the Fiji School of Medicine, Permanent Secretaries and officials from the Ministry of Education and Health and Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Matt Anderson.

Mr Anderson said Australia enjoys a strong partnership with the Fiji School of Medicine, providing significant funding over recent years to help ensure sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified healthcare workers to deliver services.

"This support has assisted the Fiji School of Medicine to increase enrolments from 59 in 2008 to 100 in 2011. When this increase created pressure on Fijian training hospitals, the Solomon Islands Government offered clinical attachments at the National Referral Hospital and land for the construction of accommodation for up to 16 students."

"The new accommodation ensures the provides additional clinical capacity to the National Referral Hospital, offers quality training to final year medical students and will lead to greater numbers of trained medical professionals working in the Pacific region."

Mr Anderson said this support complements Australia's assistance to the Solomon Islands health sector delivered through the Partnership for Development.

"Australia currently provides SBD$140 million every year (A$20 million) to support the Government deliver health services across the country, which is around 40% of Solomon Islands annual health budget.

The Ministry of Health uses this funding to support priorities within their health plan. Some of their achievements to date include large reductions in the rates of Malaria, enhanced supply of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies across all provinces, improvements in maternal and child health and improvements in rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

Source: Press Release, Australian High Commission