When Mangaia resident Maui Peraua was struck on the head by a falling coconut, he collapsed dazed to the ground, unable to move.
But with no doctor on the island, the most the local nurse could offer him was painkillers for the headache. He was kept in hospital for four days, then sent home.
Yesterday, wife Lynn spoke of having to pay for flights to Rarotonga for her 66-year-old husband, concerned he might have suffered serious head injuries.
“You never know what injuries he could have inside his head and we needed it confirmed at least by a scan or x-ray, we needed a doctor’s advice to know if he’s alright.”
The couple rely on a pension and craftwork to get by, and they raise their own livestock – it was hard for them to pay for $500 return airfares.
Mangaia MP Tetangi Matapo said it cost little to see a GP or dentist on Rarotonga or Aitutaki, but those on the outer islands had no affordable medical care when they most need it. “We are all supposed to be equal citizens of this country. Equal only it seems, if you live in Rarotonga or Aitutaki.”
The people of Mangaia and other outer islands have been speaking loudly and bitterly of their concerns at having no locally-based doctors, after Ministry of Health cost-cutting in 2016. Instead they rely on a flying doctors service.
Yesterday, Secretary for Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman told Cook Islands News she would travel to Mangaia next week, to meet the community and seek solutions.
Dr Aumea, who has continued to practice medicine, will personally run a GP clinic.
She will be joined by Dr Tereapii Uka, Director of Community Health Services, and New Zealand-trained staff nurse Apa Temata. Temata is helping in the helping to establish Emergency Management Team services and will assess Mangaia’s emergency response systems.
Dr Herman said she had spoken to Matapo and they would work together with community leaders to support Mangaia health. She reiterated the government’s commitment to placing doctors on the Pa Enua.
With the increase in TMO’s budget, Kaveinga Ora will be able to provide a permanent flying doctor service for the Southern group islands, and similarly for the Northern group islands.
“The ministry has never developed a ‘no doctor policy’ for the Pa Enua. All Pa Enua have access to doctors every day,” she said.
Any family who had paid for their travel to Rarotonga should contact the Ministry to find out if they could be for reimbursed.
“I look forward to working closely with our community leaders to implement health promoting actions for the people of Mangaia.
“Support from our leaders in Mangaia and other Pa Enua, would help us identify solutions so that we can achieve better health outcomes for our people, so that no one is left behind. We must all work together.”