The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) confirms that the 3 million NZD (approximately $15 million SBD) COVID-19 funding support from the New Zealand government was deposited into the Ministry’s account in August and utilization of the funds have already commenced.

“The purpose of this funding was to provide emergency assistance to be used in priority areas, as determined by government, which would help alleviate the impacts on Solomon Islands of COVID-19. As such the funds will be utilized for strengthening health system responses and enhancing COVID-19 prevention and containment capabilities. The funds are not for supporting the Economic Stimulus Package initiative of the Government,” the Ministry of Health said in a prepared statement.

The Ministry says that the two areas in which the funds will be allocated are amongst the key output areas of the Ministry’s overall COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan (PRP) in which Kilu’ufi and Gizo hospital in Malaita and Western Provinces are also included.

The statement explains that work on utilization of the funds has commenced with $1,228,948 million, (8 percent of budgetary support from NZ) already used to procure the Shimadzu digital mobile X-ray machine for the National Referral Hospital (NRH).

“Over $2 million is allocated for COVID-19 laboratory, testing equipment, lab consumables and lab upgrade both at NRH and the provinces. $1.2 million towards specialized equipment for triage and $1 million to support health logistics in the provinces specifically land and sea transport.

“With prevention and containment, more than $10 million of the funds are allocated towards upgrade of health infrastructure in the provinces including installation of incinerators for waste management at selected provincial health facilities.

“Nevertheless, substantial amount of the funding will be allocated to the National Referral Hospital, Gizo, Taro and Kilu’ufi hospitals in the provinces since they are within the emergency declared zones,” the statement from the Ministry said.

The Ministry says to date it is working on the details of infrastructure upgrade to ensure that all specifications are aligned to meet infection, prevention and control measures amongst other health requirements and as soon as it is finalized and endorsed, work on upgrade will commence.

“Work on establishing COVID-19 testing capabilities in the provinces is also ongoing with Kilu’ufi hospital a top priority at the moment. To date, GeneXpert machine and all other components such bio safety cabinet, testing kits etc. have already been deployed to the province except for calibration kit which is required to compete the set-up, which is yet to arrive in country. Once acquired, national lab team will be deployed for the set-up and training of Malaita provincial lab technicians.

“In terms of COVID-19 related waste management, Solomon Port’s incinerator is currently being used for disposal of clinical waste as work to repair NRH incinerator is set to commence with the funds provided.

“Again the MHMS would like to reiterate that all funds received from the New Zealand government is with the Ministry and will not be used for any other purposes except to assist the ministry in achieving output areas within its Covid-19 PRP. The Ministry will continue to work in partnership with New Zealand to ensure that the funds are used for their intended purpose and in keeping with Solomon Islands Government COVID-19 priorities,” the Ministry explained.

The Ministry says that like all donor funds within the Ministry, the New Zealand budgetary support to the Ministry is securely held in the MHMS Development Partners Account. There is no missing money as claimed. There are government processes to adhere to and follow in handling of donor funds. Both financial and narrative reporting of the utilization of the funds is crucial for purposes of accountability and good governance within the Ministry.

“The Ministry has in place strict internal control measures and mechanisms for tracking of the COVID finances (both SIG and Donor) and report is produced on a monthly basis. MHMS has also drafted its COVID narrative report (Jan to June 2020) which is currently under review. Also provincial health directors positioned in the provinces can be easily consulted for any health enquiries from the provinces and the Ministry main office remains open for enquiries from various organizations and offices,” the statement concludes.

Source: MHMS Press Release