Tuvalu News


SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 12, 2000 - Daily Post/PINA Nius Online,)---Patients from other South Pacific countries are being billed at the local rate of only 50 cents a day for a hospital bed in Suva, a doctor claimed yesterday.

The doctor said these patients are referred to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital to escape the higher medical bills in Australia and New Zealand.

He said there are six patients from Tuvalu in hospital now, and they occupy six beds. "These six patients are international and they are paying the same rate as what any citizen of this country pays," he said.

"How can this be justified? The sad thing is that the hospital is giving preference to these international patients over the locals.

"It is understandable that no one can be denied medical care when one is in need, whether it be a local or a foreigner.

"But the point is that the hospital should act responsibly while making decisions on admitting outsiders and treating them at cheap rates, reducing the chance of six locals from getting a bed at the hospital.

"Australia and New Zealand, being developed countries, will not be as generous as our CWM," the doctor said.

"These countries will not accept Fiji patients in preference to their locals."

He claimed the foreign referrals began with the regional students at the Fiji School of Medicine. On their return home, the new doctors market the high-standard professional care offered at Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

"These medical students simply advise the patients back home that they could always get a high standard medical service, something closer to what they get in Australia and New Zealand, on a cheaper rate and so they end up here at just 50 cents a day."

He appealed to the government to act immediately as taxpayers' money is involved in running the hospital. The Director Hospital Services, Dr. Nacanieli Goneyali, confirmed that some regional patients are under examination at the hospital.

"Yes, there are some six patients receiving care here," he said. Dr. Goneyali, who doubles as medical superintendent at the hospital, said the arrangements for the patients to be transferred to Fiji were made, by telephone, by the hospital in Tuvalu.

"Certainly, people in Tuvalu are aware that CWM provides a high standard of services, and so they choose to come here," he said. But he said the regional patients pay a special, rather than the local rate. The Immigration Department said people can get easy access to another country on medical grounds.

Meanwhile, a hospital source claimed that some specialists are using hospital facilities for their private practice, and they make a lot of money out of this. "Just last week, one of the specialists carried out an operation at night on a local patient who suffered from intestinal disease and charged him $3,000," he said.

That patient should have received that service free of charge or on the normal rate charged by a public hospital, he said.

Dr. Goneyali said he is unaware of such practices.

"I never knew that such things are happening, but now that you have raised the issue with me, it is my duty to look into it and instruct whether an investigation is needed or not," he said.

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