16 Dec 2020

Health expert warns of drugs shortage in Fiji

1:59 pm on 16 December 2020

A health specialist in Fiji has warned there's a lack of essential medicines at health centres and hospitals in the country.

Eddie McCaig

Eddie McCaig Photo: Fiji National University

Dr Eddie McCaig said the silence from the government amid this growing threat is 'deafening'.

Addressing the panel on the State of Human Rights discussion, McCaig, said about 60 percent of what was on the essential drug list in Fiji was not available.

The retired and long-serving specialist surgeon claimed that recently residents of Korovou had asked for a private pharmacy to be built in their town.

McCaig said no one at the time realised the residents had asked for a pharmacy because there were no drugs in the hospitals.

He said the absence of drugs for HIV patients was another concern.

"It is sad and it's been so quiet, there has been no comment from the Government," he told the panel.

"The Health Ministry's like a three-legged stool. We've got the institution, we've got the administration, we've got the patients."

"With administrations we look at the doctors, the nurses and everyone in the administration and the drugs etc and the institution and the patients. And right now this stool has fallen flat. Every leg is broken."

McCaig said the country was aware that about 15 percent of the population was diabetic while 60 percent was admitted to hospitals because of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

He said if deaths are looked at, 80 percent of the population dies from NCDs.

"We once looked at our diabetics and complications, we found that 80 percent of our diabetics are poorly controlled because they have no drugs, they have no labs, laboratory testing and the list goes on and on.

"So what is the state of our nation, it is in dire straits."

Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said McCaig had retired from Fiji National University where he was employed.

Waqainabete said McCaig had never worked at the ministry as a civil servant for the last 20 years.

"He had retired," the minister said. "He has also never applied formally to work in any capacity even as a locum.

"And since we were in the throes of Covid-19, all staff over 50 were kept away from the front-line. So even if he had asked to come in formally, we would not possibly have done so."

Waqainabete said more than 60 staff members at FNU had also retired this year.

Fiji's Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete.

Fiji's Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete. Photo: fiji govt