DELIVERING health services in Solomon Islands is not easy, yet the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the National Referral Hospital (NRH) continue to improve health outcomes despite significant challenges, said the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Service (MHMS), Dr Tenneth Dalipanda.
The demand for health care in Solomon Islands is growing. In 2017, more than 1 million health consultations took place in clinics and hospitals. However, just over 2000 health workers managed all of these visits.
NRH carries the largest proportion of this load. For example, one out of every three births in the country last year took place at NRH. That’s a total of approximately 5,500 babies born at NRH in 2017.
The staff of the NRH and MHMS work hard every day and night to manage this demand for free, good quality health services, despite the challenges of limited human resources and budget constraints for infrastructure and equipment.
“We are working hard to use our limited resources efficiently, to get the best possible health outcomes for the Solomon Islands population,” said Dr. Dalipanda.
MHMS has a plan to achieve Universal Health Coverage through the Role Delineation Policy (RDP), which will ease the pressure on NRH and bring health services closer to communities in the provinces. “We are already beginning to implement this plan,” said Dr. Dalipanda. “For example, an upgraded Area Health Centre in Renbel will open shortly, and three Area Health Centres in Guadalcanal will be upgraded soon. This means that better services will be available closer to people in the surrounding communities. They won’t need to bear the expense of travelling to Honiara for care, and NRH can focus on the most complicated patients.”
He explained that, over the coming months and years as the Ministry of Health and Medical Services implements its Role Delineation Policy, more clinics, Area Health Centres and provincial hospitals will be upgraded with the appropriate equipment, infrastructure and housing and appropriately skilled human resources in line with the MHMS RDP to bring services and staff closer to the people, with less financial burden.
“Health challenges are growing in the country, and so are expectations of the people,” said Dr. Dalipanda. He explained that unhealthy diets, consumption of alcohol, cigarette smoking and an increase in the number of road traffic accidents are leading to bigger demands on the health sector. At the same time, government funding has plateaued over the years, while donor funding is decreasing. Despite these demands the MHMS is making significant gains, an achievement for which Dr. Dalipanda and Dr. Steve Aumanu, CEO of NRH, commended the health workforce.
“Despite the challenge of meeting the growing demand for health care with limited resources and hospital space, NRH staff are working day in, day out to care for the men, women and children of Solomon Islands,” said Dr. Aumanu.
“It is thanks to the diligence of health workers and the hard work of MHMS staff, as well as the support of our partners, that we have seen significant improvements in several areas over the last few years,” said Dr. Dalipanda.
For example, he explained that supervised deliveries are now higher than ever; 90% of births are attended by a skilled health worker, such as a midwife. Immunization coverage has also been steadily increasing over the past few years with a number of new vaccines being introduced. Similarly, maternal deaths have significantly declined with just 15 recorded in 2017.
“We are proud of our achievements, but we still have a lot of work to do to solve the issues facing NRH and the health sector in general,” said Dr. Dalipanda.
He reiterated that MHMS is already working to improve this situation through its plan to bring health services closer to the people.
“We are working closely with health workers, other Ministries, partners and communities to roll out this plan. We are confident that this is the way forward for health in the Solomon Islands.”