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Emergency med-evac flight from Mangaia highlights doctor crisis

Friday August 16, 2019 Written by Published in Outer Islands
The Red Cross runs first aid training for the population of Mangaia. These courses give local people life-saving skills. 19081545 The Red Cross runs first aid training for the population of Mangaia. These courses give local people life-saving skills. 19081545

A seriously ill woman and two other patients were flown from Mangaia to Rarotonga in a charter flight on Wednesday.

Their deteriorating state, and the ill health of others on the southern island, has been blamed on the Health Ministry’s failure to assign a new doctor there.

Mangaia, like most other outer islands, has no resident doctor. Locals this week renewed their calls for one to be appointed, or for a Mangaia-born doctor to return home.

Ivirua MP Tetangi Matapo said the island, with a population of about 500 people, has been without a doctor since 2014.

Numerous requests had been made to the Health Ministry, even calls in Parliament, but all their cries had fallen on deaf ears.

Health Secretary Dr Josephine Herman did not respond to questions yesterday.

Lania Tuaine, who is from Mangaia, took to Facebook this week, publicly pleading for support to get a doctor on the island. The post on the Rarotonga Community and Beyond page has now been taken down.

Matapo said they were also frustrated by the delays in decisions from the Health ministry on charter flights to evacuate patients with serious conditions.

“I visited three of the patients who were taken to Rarotonga hospital and one of the patient’s condition was quite serious,” she said.

“The nurses here make calls to the doctors in Rarotonga but from what I understand, the decision from Rarotonga is quite slow. I raised this in Parliament, asking if they can make quicker decisions on issues such as this because it’s concerning some very sick people who need immediate medical attention.”

Matapo said the ministry should not have any issue in sending a fulltime doctor to the island given the increase they have received in the 2019/20 Budget.

The ministry’s budgeted funding has increased to $17.5 million for this financial year.

“I have made numerous calls, the latest being in the June sitting in Parliament and all I have been told is that they are looking for a qualified doctor, a specialist, and they will send the doctor soon. It’s August now and we still haven’t got a doctor,” Matapo said.

“The nurse practitioner who was based here has been called up to Rarotonga hospital and we only have five nurses at the hospital here in Mangaia.”

Nurse practitioners, advanced trained registered nurses with midwifery qualifications, are stationed on the outer islands to carry out the duties of a doctor.

“We don’t have that nurse practitioner that’s why we are requesting for a doctor,” Matapo said.

She said they were also requesting the Health ministry to send a grounds man to look after the facilities at the hospital.

“We have the nurses here who are cutting the grass and maintaining the compound.”