The combined efforts of a group of Indo-Fijians to provide free medical services to the poor and needy in their native land became a reality last week.
A team of 33 medical practitioners including general practitioners, specialists, nurses, anaesthetists and physiotherapists are currently in Fiji to treat scores of people who need medical attention and treatment.
The Group belongs to the recently formed Friends of Fiji Health Foundation with a spirit of service on voluntary, pro bono basis (except professional nurses who will be paid by the Foundation).
Foundation Chairman Dr Sunil Pillay, who is leading the team, said that the objective was to ‘complement and supplement’ the health services provided by local doctors and nurses in Fiji.
He said while the need to provide proper and timely medical care, including surgical intervention to the poor people was known, the gravity of the situation became apparent during a fact-finding trip earlier in the year.
“An increasing number of men, women and children suffer from several ailments, treatment for which is beyond their financial reach. Medical resources are also limited and hence we decided to offer our services and expertise not only free of cost but also at our own expense. Doctors and other members of the team have paid their own travel, accommodation and other costs,” he said.
Based on conservative estimates, the ongoing trip would cost the team at least $150,000, including payment of fees to the professional nurses.
Dr Pillay said the team would be based in Lautoka, where a new operation theatre has been built to improve the quality of medical attention to those in need.
“We would work along with local doctors and nurses and examine as many patients as possible during the two-week stay and spend at least two days in assessing patients. Our aim is to enable the local teams to continue medical services to the needy after we return to New Zealand,” he said.
The medical team has also hired equipment from the Southern Cross Hospital for diagnosis, analysis and treatment while in Fiji.
“Medical care and surgical intervention are not cheap and many facilities and services are not available in Fiji. The poor cannot afford to go overseas for treatment. The services of the Foundation will save hundreds of lives, provide medical equipment and encourage local talent to blossom. We are working with the assistance and support of the Health Ministry in Fiji,” Dr Pillay said.
Indian Newslink will publish a report on the visit in an ensuing edition.
Meanwhile, Venina Lavuta, Head of the Undergraduate Programme at the Fiji School of Nursing said acute shortage of nurses was slowing down delivery of quality medical services in Fiji.
“With retirement age at 55 years, constant emigration of qualified nurses overseas for employment and the ever-increasing number of patients has brought medical services under heavy pressure. While we are doing our best to improve the situation, assistance from organisations such as the Friends of Fiji Health Foundation will be extremely valuable,” she said.
Among the Trustees of the Foundation are Dr Sunil Pillay (Chairman), Deepak Tahal (Chief Executive), Daven Naidu (Secretary) Rajesh Chaudhary (Treasurer), Radhe Nand (Legal Advisor), Mukesh Parshotam (Auditor) Dr Rajen Prasad, Bob Naidu, Dr Dhana Gounder, Dr Rishi Ram, Dr Ajay Kumar, Dr Vinod Singh, Dr Rajendra Kumar and Dr Ravindra Raj (Trustees). Some of them are seen here at a dinner reception held in honour of volunteers at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre in Auckland on November 13, 2010.