THE people of Aola, East Central Guadalcanal will soon have access to better health care closer to home, thanks to a partnership between the community and Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the World Health Organization (WHO).
Members of the Aola Clinic Committee met with representatives of the three organizations last week to discuss plans for the refurbishment of the Aola Area Health Centre, which serves a catchment area of around 10,000 people. Improvements will include a completely renovated clinic building – including a confidential space for survivors of domestic violence – running water, improved septic tank system, toilets and showers, a pharmacy, delivery room, and separate wards for men and women. All going to plan, construction should get underway by October this year. In the meantime, the clinic will move to a temporary location closer to the main road where the nursing staff will continue to offer basic services.
The focus of the project goes beyond “bricks and mortar” says Dr. Joel Denty, Provincial Health Director. Aola is one of many centres being upgraded as part of the Government’s plan to ensure everyone in the Solomon Islands has access to quality health care. The renovations will enable staff to deliver better quality services, particularly in the area of maternal and newborn health. “East Central Guadalcanal has high infant mortality rates and low childhood vaccination rates, compared with the rest of the province and the country. Many women travel to Honiara to give birth. The trip is long and arduous, over rough roads, and it is expensive for families to stay in town. Once the renovation is done, there will be a fulltime doctor based at Aola and staff will be able to provide full obstetric care before, during and after delivery, including ultrasound scanning, and newborn care,” Dr. Denty said. “Fewer people traveling to Honiara for health care will also relieve some of the heavy caseloads of the National Referral Hospital.”
The project is made possible through funding support from KOICA. A key objective of the agency is to ensure access to essential reproductive, maternal and child health services, said Regional Director, Mrs. Michelle Kim. “We are delighted to be working with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and WHO on this vital initiative. But ultimately, its success will depend on the community’s commitment to using and maintaining the facility. This is their clinic.”
WHO Representative to the Solomon Islands, Dr. Sevil Huseynova, also emphasized the importance of community support. “This is a four-way partnership. The Ministry of Health is committed to providing access to safe, quality services. KOICA is committed to providing the means to achieve that and to lifting the standard of mother-child care. WHO has worked with the Ministry to develop standards for all the country’s health facilities and is bringing the partners together, and working to ensure construction and the fit-out goes smoothly. Now we ask the community to work with us to keep the facility secure, and the services running for the long term.”
Vice-Chair of the local clinic committee, Mr. Philip Maneka, said his community was excited about the improvements and he pledged to support the centre. He thanked the Government, KOICA, and WHO for their efforts. “This project gives me great joy. It has given us a future. Our committee will try our best, working with staff, for the betterment of the community – for our children and our children’s children.”