Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Feb. 21) - Problems in the health service in this country are usually embarrassingly exposed in times of major outbreak of diseases or when sick people wait in lines and don't get served.

For many years now, our hospitals and health centers have been associated with poor service.

Shortage of doctors and nurses are other issues, which paralyze the service.

The lack of basic medical facilities including essential drugs is an ongoing problem.

Although the Government each year allocates a substantial portion of its budget to the ministry, it is obviously not enough to cover the cost of providing and maintaining an efficient and effective health care system in this country.

Many nations around the world list health as one of their top priorities when drawing up their budget.

Health care is one of the key issues in nations such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia during national election campaigns. The issue makes or breaks one's candidacy depending on how well one sells its ideas on health care to the electorate.

Governments seriously treat health care because only an affordable and efficient service can guarantee a land of healthy and happy people.

Some have tried out insurance schemes as one way of subsidizing the health service. Such schemes have helped many seriously ill people afford expensive medical treatment.

In this country, such a scheme has very little chance of working because not everyone can afford an insurance scheme.

The majority of sick people who mostly utilize the health service are from the poor communities. And in determining the future of our health care system, the Government has to keep in mind the plight of the majority of our people who will not afford to pay for medical services.

This week there was much debate on paying for health service at hospitals. Even though it many be a good idea for the upkeep of an effective service, this wouldn't go down well for the poor.

When health care is expensive, it becomes inaccessible to the very people who need this service the most.

At the moment the health care system badly needs a major overhaul. But the Government, which is obliged to provide this basic public service, has to find the money first to fix the problem.

One suggestion that was floated before is to impose a special health tax to supplement the cost of the health service.

Perhaps it is the only way the nation can expect the standard of this service to be improved.

The Government should seriously look at options for the sake of everyone's health.

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