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Exodus of health workers in Fiji

Friday 21 April 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Exodus of health  workers in Fiji
More than 800 nurses left the country in 2019. Photo: Facebook/Ministry of Health & Medical Services/23042017

A senior health practitioner in Fiji has warned that the exodus of nurses will put significant strain on the country's health sector.

According to orthopaedic surgeon Dr Eddie McCaig, nurses are leaving in droves, with over 800 -more than a quarter of the workforce - migrating overseas in 2019 alone.

Dr McCaig told delegates at the inaugural National Economic Summit in Suva that healthcare workers were opting exit because of several factors, but their primary concerns were poor compensation and working conditions, a challenging political environment, and to seek better opportunities for their children.

"Last year, we lost 807 nurses which equates to 26.7 percent of 3,056 nurses," he revealed on Thursday.

He said the standard of patient care provided by health care professionals had also declined because of socio-economic issues.

"We do not have the resources to provide all the care that is promoted by providers and desired and demanded by the public," he said, adding that Fijian also had "unrealistic expectations".

The Fijian government has allocated almost $FJ800 million to the health and medical services ministry in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 budget cycles.

However, ageing infrastructure and the inability to retain medical workers has remains a problem.

Less than a week ago, Health Minister Ratu Antonio Lalabalavu declared that his ministry would work to improve staff living and working standards.

According to FBC News, Ratu Lalabalavu has toured to over 50 over the 220 medical services facilities in the country.

The health minister found that majority of the medical facilities were in unsatisfactory condition due to damaged infrastructure, lack of maintenance, as well as poor water and sanitation, the state broadcaster reported.

"The government of the day is ready to work with nurses and find solutions to their grievances and this will be done in a consultative manner," Ratu Lalabalavu said at the Fiji Nursing Association annual meeting on April 15.