28 Aug 2019

Absence of doctors on Cooks' outer islands 'life threatening'

7:25 am on 28 August 2019

The lack of doctors in the Cook Islands is endangering the health of those who live in the country's outer islands, or Pa Enua, an MP says.

Tetangi Matapo, a member of the Cook Islands Democratic Party.

Tetangi Matapo, a member of the Cook Islands Democratic Party. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

Mangaia MP Tetangi Matapo said she had urged the Ministry of Health to alter its policies because the absence of general practitioners was taking a toll on the health of the Pa Enua.

The Ministry of Education can supply over 20 teachers to Mangaia, yet the Ministry of Health can't even provide one doctor, Ms Matapo said.

"We've had senior officials visit and explain to the people of Mangaia their 'no doctor policy' but no one has asked what the people actually want and need," she said.

"The people of Mangaia and I want to know what evidence there is that the no doctor policy is working well for the Pa Enua."

To see a doctor, a patient's condition has to justify air evacuation from the Pa Enua, meaning Mangaians often do not see a doctor until their lives are in danger, she said.

"This means Mangaian's have no right to see a doctor until their heath has become a medical crisis, in other words, life threatening."

It costs a Mangaian a hefty return airfare to Rarotonga as well as accommodation costs to see a GP or dentist, yet Rarotongans and Aitutakians can see them for free or very little, Ms Matapo said.