21 October 205: Media Release – Health bureaucracy leads to two deaths
The Ministry of Health must confirm whether bureaucracy and legal wrangling by the Ministry and the Solicitor-General’s Office has resulted in deaths of two patients urgently requiring life saving open-heart surgery. If this is so, it is a blight on our nation. This is a breach of Section 38(2) of the 2013 Constitution, which states a person must not be denied emergency medical treatment.
We have been informed 20 patients booked for open-heart surgery, who had already collected funds and granted the reduced sum of $5000 each by the health ministry, have had their surgery deferred indefinitely.
This is reportedly because of alleged non-compliance and delays on the interpretation of a memorandum of agreement between the Ministry of Health and Sahyadri (Fiji), which is believed to be a subsidiary of Sahyadri Group India, whose surgeons were providing specialist treatment to Fiji patients.
We believe the Agreement between Sahyadri (Fiji) and the Health Ministry was valid for 5 years. Under the agreement surgeons and specialists from Sahyadri (India) commenced advanced cardiac, orthopaedic and neuro surgeries at the CWM and Lautoka Hospitals from 2013.
But 20 patients booked for open-heart surgery are now in a life and death situation because this arrangement has been suspended for the last 6 weeks. The question that arises is this: If there were flaws in the agreement between the Health Ministry, Sahyadri (Fiji) or even Sahyadri (India), why wasn’t this detected before it was signed by the parties?
Why has it taken two years for the Health Ministry to seek a legal opinion on the agreement? The current Minister for Health & Medical Services and his Assistant assumed office almost 13 months ago.
Soon after their appointment, the Assistant Minister for Health received wide publicity visiting patients who had undergone surgery performed by surgeons from Sahyadri (India). Why wasn’t the agreement scrutinised then, especially soon after they assumed office?
And if alleged anomalies were detected in the agreement, why penalise the patients in urgent need of life-saving surgery? Whatever the alleged problems detected in the corporate arrangements between Sahyadri and Ministry of Health are, surgery must be allowed to go ahead without delay.
Reduction in grant We believe as part of the reversals being put in place by the health ministry, the grant of $F10,000 has been reduced to $5,000 for these cases since 2015. This makes it even more difficult for patients to be prepared for open-heart surgery. No clear answers are forthcoming from the health personnel apart from the “No money” cry since July 2015. Why?
Is it also true that in August 2015, when the Sahyadri (Fiji) team was undertaking free angiograms, training local personnel locally and additionally screening for open heart surgery to be undertaken in September 2015, midway through this process, the health management stopped their progression to seek legal opinion on a non clinical matter of supposed breach of the memorandum of agreement in place?
Section 38(1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to health and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health care services…” 38(3) states “…if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that resources are not available”.
We have been informed in another unrelated case involving a patient requiring kidney treatment, the health ministry recalled the patient and terminated his treatment after more funds were needed due to the seriousness of the illness. The patient later died.
This is an extremely serious matter requiring an immediate intervention from the Prime Minister to prevent loss of further lives. Hon Prof Biman Prasad NFP Leader