Tuvalu PM Laments Poor Health Of Population; Burden Of Medical Referrals To Fiji

Sopoaga says High Commission in Suva 'like a refugee camp'

By Avinesh Gopal

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 14, 2016) – The Tuvalu High Commission in Fiji is like a refugee camp, says Tuvaluan Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga.

Mr Sopoaga said he visited the mission and saw it crowded with his own people.

When asked to elaborate on the "refugee camp" status that he gave the mission, he said there were a number of referral medical cases to Fiji by the Tuvaluan Government.

"It keeps increasing and we need to minimise on that," he said in an interview with this newspaper on Monday night during a dinner hosted by the Sahyadri Specialty Pacific Hospital Ltd Fiji.

"So we focus now on awareness, public health, more advocacy and for people to do more exercises.

"We need to profile everybody in Tuvalu so that they go and regularly get checked medically.

"They have to do more healthy living, and go to the beach and do exercise rather than coming to the Government when they get very sick and we have to send them to Fiji."

Mr Sopoaga said the Tuvalu Government's medical scheme should not be used by Tuvaluans to do shopping in Suva.

"I visited our mission in Suva and it's like a refugee camp. It was crowded with Tuvaluans who were there waiting to collect their allowances.

"The Tuvalu Government pays for their airfares to come to Fiji, accommodation and everything."

Asked how much his government spent on these patients, he said: "We spend $3 million [US$2.24 million] every year on them and mind you, it's Australian dollars (about $F4.7m)."

Mr Sopoaga said there was a need to cut the $A3m budget for the medical treatment scheme by 50 per cent.

He has suggested that every island council in Tuvalu must register their people to build a more resilient community.

"I want a healthy nation, people to live healthy and they need to exercise for their own health.

"This will cut the cost on the State in sending patients to Fiji for medical treatment and the same money can go towards building more sea walls in Tuvalu, giving our children better education and for other things," said Mr Sopoaga.

The exact number of Tuvaluans in Fiji under their government's medical treatment scheme, and their family members, could not be confirmed. However, there is a noticeable increase in the Tuvaluan population in Suva.

Fiji Times Online.
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