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The Turaga na Vunivalu e Naivakacere,
The Turaga na Vunivalu e Burerua,
The Roko Tui Tai,
Teachers and Schoolchildren,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It has been an exciting time for Fijians living in the Vatukarasa area. You’ve seen your roads and schools upgraded. Your children have new access to higher-quality education. You’re able to gather around and watch free television through our Walesi platform for the first time. By virtually any measure, you are benefiting from Government services more today than at any time in Fijian history. Today, we build on that success by marking yet another milestone, which is what brings me here with you all today. Because today, I have the pleasure of officially opening the new Vatukarasa Nursing Station.

This heath facility was no small expense for Government; a half-million dollars was allocated to fund the nursing station’s construction. Meanwhile, I don’t like to refer to this as an expense, or as a cost to Government; instead, we should speak about it as an investment. You’ll hear me saying this whenever I speak about my Government’s visionary plan for building a better future in Fiji. Because unlike irresponsible spenders, wise investors realize the price of infrastructure today will pay for itself in the long term as Fijians reap the benefits long after the project is commissioned. Because whether it’s a school or a road, whether it’s increasing access to clean water or affordable electricity, my Government knows that the payoff from these investments will benefit Fijians today, tomorrow, and in future generations.

And that is certainly true for health facilities like this one. Gone are the days when you had to travel to Lomaivuna Nursing Station or the Vunidawa Hospital for your basic medical needs. By making medical services more easily accessible to you, we are creating a healthier population. And by lifting the burden of traveling to receive medical care, we are saving you time and money, allowing you to focus your resources on things like raising a family, thriving in your jobs, and caring for your community.

This new nursing station will service three villages–– Vatukarasa, Nameka and Natuva in the Tikina of Tai Vugalei –– along with two primary schools and the Coloi Settlement. Soon, the Ministry of Health will also be providing a boat and engine that will allow the new station’s nurse to more easily visit villages to provide medical services and important health information to villagers and schoolchildren.

And it’s not just these areas that are seeing the benefits as we lay the groundwork for a healthier future. All across Fiji, we are expanding access to healthcare unlike ever before. And with our Constitution, this commitment has been put into stone by including health as fundamental right of all Fijians. We promised to take every reasonable measure within our means to help our people achieve good health. And we are striving to live up to that promise every day. That’s why, in the 2018-2019 Budget which took effect just last week, we allocated a total of $382 million to improving the health of the Fijian people, both by funding new capital projects –– hospitals and nursing stations like this one –– and by recruiting highly-skilled medical personnel to staff them.

By putting dedicated nursing stations and health centres throughout the country, particularly in our rural areas, we are freeing up our larger hospitals to become more specialised in the services they offer. Because of this specialised approach, along with our increased investment in staff and equipment, Fiji’s medical facilities are quickly evolving, allowing new and innovative treatments to be offered in our country for the very first time. In all, the new Budget has dedicated over $60 million to new capital development of the health sector, representing a bold, aggressive step in tackling the many health issues facing ordinary Fijians.

The truth is that none of the new buildings or equipment would be of any benefit without the skilled hands of staff –– and that, in our rural communities, these shoes are often filled by community health workers –– we have now brought all of these workers under the Ministry of Health, as opposed to other ministries. There are over 1,800 of these workers in Fiji, and for the first time ever, we’ve set aside a new allocation of $4.6 million to increase their allowances from $50 to $200 per month.

In line with our commitment to finding new ways to solve old problems, we are continuing to think differently, and Fijians in our rural communities will see the benefits of this in the coming months. Government has introduced a new incentive programme that encourages General Practitioners, or GPs, to set up shop in our rural communities, and to be financially rewarded for serving more patients. The expense of visiting a GP would be covered by Government, but this, again, provides more options for Fijians to access healthcare closer to their own back yard at no additional cost.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are just a few of the many new programmes and initiatives that my Government is spearheading to improve the health of Fijians everywhere. We’ve allocated funds to subsidise kidney dialysis treatments and research, along with state-of-the-art tools like x-rays, biomedical equipment and dental equipment. We’re building a new maternity ward in CWM which meets international standards. And we’re engaging an international hospital operator for a Public-Private Partnership that will result in new medical services through the Ba and Lautoka Hospitals which will change the face of medical care in Fiji as we know it.

At the end of the day, though, the most important investment that can be made in your health is not made by Government –– it is made by you. Indeed, you must first take care of yourselves, and your families, because the best way to address any disease is not through treatment after-the-fact, but prevention before it takes hold. As we look to a healthier future for Vatukarasa with this new facility, I urge you, and Fijians everywhere, to pledge to take healthier steps in to realising that future on a personal level. As I said to begin this speech, it’s an exciting time to be alive for each of you. Don’t take it for granted –– by practising proper hygiene, monitoring your health, exercising more, improving your diet, and cutting down or eliminating vices, you will be able to live out your lives to the fullest, and see that the best days for Fiji are yet to come.

It is now my great pleasure to declare the Vatukarasa Nursing Station officially open.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications