The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is currently conducting a review of past and current potential partnerships with hospitals overseas for patient referrals.
The previous partnership with St Vincent Hospital in Sydney, Australia for the 10 beds had come to a halt in 2017 due to certain issues. Efforts to revive this partnership are being revisited while other options are also under assessments and in discussions with bilateral partners through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
As such, since 2017 the NRH Overseas Referral Committee (ORC) have been making referrals based on their professional network with specialists overseas and at times through the networks of visiting overseas medical professionals and private specialists. The biggest challenge however is with the limited funds to send an increasing number of our people who need these overseas services.
Each year the ORC is allocated SBD 2 million dollars for overseas referrals of citizens based on clinical criteria. Referrals are mainly to Australia where treatment alone can cost up to AUD 30 to 60 thousand (SBD$200,000 plus), let alone airfare, accommodation and food for the duration of stay overseas. A few to St Luke’s Hospital Philippines and Fiji.
That is the reason why we are seeing an increasing number of family-organized fundraisings including youth groups and other civil society groups coming on board to render support in mobilizing funds for patients to receive treatment overseas, as this was the advice ORC is currently giving to patients when it has no funds to assist.
The ORC and the Ministry of Health commend many individuals, families, groups, and organizations who have in many occasions stepped in to support in either organizing and participating in these fundraising activities or directly providing funds.
Despite these challenges, the Ministry and the Government remain committed to finding ways and means to overcome these challenges.
Discussions with bilateral partners are continuing and in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, MHMS remains optimistic that soon a partnership will be reached with one or two overseas hospitals. In fact, two of our bilateral partners have already indicated interest to support us in this regard as part of their proposed health cooperation and MOUs have been drafted and shared with these partners.
There are also ongoing discussions with the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Children’s Hospital in Fiji to send Solomon Islands children with correctable congenital heart problems for surgery at their hospital when Indian Cardiac surgical teams visit Fiji. This is an opportunity that will help with the backlog of children with heart problems waiting. It is hoped that we can start sending some cases this year.
While work on this is ongoing, the Ministry is also well aware of the importance of availing these services in the country as well. On this note, thank you to the national Government and our partners.
The CT Scan at NRH, fully funded by the Solomon Islands Government is serving well our people and assisting medical staff in making more definitive diagnosis and treatment of patients that could have otherwise been advised to travel overseas for such service. Its findings helped clinicians determine the next clinical steps of treatment and management including suitability for overseas referral.
The PRC-funded, Comprehensive Medical Centre that will be erected at the East wing of NRH will provide specialized services relating to cardiology (Heart), nephrology (renal/ kidney), and urology care services amongst other services is in progress once opened. It is anticipated that all related diseases can be properly assessed, investigated and managed, a difficulty of access experienced now.
The new Dialysis Machine at NRH, also provided by PRC, will soon enable advanced treatment of kidney failure patients after medical assessment. Training is still ongoing for our medical staff (doctors and nurses) to operate the machine.
The work on upgrading the NRH acute care ward (high dependency unit) for a 14-bed enhanced standard of care that is supported by Australia will also see specialized equipment and upskilled medical staff caring for acute cases admitted at the hospital once the project is completed, end of this month as per the work schedule.
Maintaining relationships with foundations, charity groups and organizations for yearly deployment of medical expertise and specialists to NRH which many have benefited from, let alone the skills and knowledge transferred to our local medical team.
These are some of the outcomes reflective of current efforts to avail sub-specialized medical services in the country.
The Ministry acknowledges and recognizes the many calls and concerns raised by the public to have these services available in the country. Be rest assured we will work to our very best to achieve these, might not be today but at least we ensure progress is tracked and monitored, and obstacles to progress are dealt with accordingly and in a timely manner until our people can start benefiting from these services.