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ALOFI, Niue (Niue News, April 9) - Niue Premier Young Vivian hopes his cyclone-ravaged island will have a new hospital up and running by Christmas.

Since Cyclone Heta destroyed the isolated island's only hospital in January, up to five patients a week have had to be evacuated to New Zealand for treatment.

With financial help from donor countries such as New Zealand and Australia, Mr Vivian believes a NZ$3.5 million, 12-bed hospital complex can be completed by the end of the year.

The European Union has pledged $1.2 million toward the project.

Temporary medical facilities set up in Niue's Youth Center at Fonuakula have been described as inadequate and "awful."

Niue's post-cyclone recovery plan will be presented to representatives of potential donors in Wellington on April 28, a new hospital being one of the top priorities.

Hima Takelesi, Niue's high commissioner to New Zealand, said a new hospital could be open as early as November, "provided donor agencies come to the party."

Niue had been given a portable X-ray machine but, while medical staff had hoped to start using it, no appropriate building existed in which it could be housed.

In the cyclone aftermath, the youth center was intended only as a temporary solution. "We did not expect so many people would be admitted," said Mr Takelesi.

At retreat held in Auckland's Government House, Mr Vivian raised with Samoa' s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi the possibility of Niue patients being sent to Apia for initial assessment in preference to more expensive and longer evacuations to New Zealand. Using Polynesian Airlines' links with Samoa and Niue to New Zealand, Niuean patients could be returned to Niue after treatment or on to Auckland if their conditions were more serious.

The Samoan leader asked his Niuean counterpart to send Niue's Minister of Health Fisa Pihigia to Apia to discuss the proposal.

Costs of transferring Niue patients to New Zealand - and Samoa if it happens – would come out of Niue's aid allocation.

April 12, 2004

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