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The Minister for Health and Medical Services,
Acting Permanent Secretary for Health,
Director of the Construction Implementation Unit,
Staff of CWM Hospital,
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Today, we break ground on the Suva Women’s Health Unit, taking the first major step in our journey to give women in Fiji a new, full-service hospital facility here in Suva. One that meets high international standards and one that delivers a complete package of coordinated care designed specifically for women. It will be a one-stop shop catering to the physical and emotional healthcare needs of women patients, in a comprehensive facility unlike anything Fiji has ever seen before.

This morning, we are witnessing the culmination of almost two years of careful planning and preparation undertaken by my Government to deliver this extension to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. The latest in a long line of developments we’ve delivered to meet the growing healthcare needs of our people. In particular, our women, who face an array of health challenges that require specialised care, equipment, facilities and professional staff to address.

Fiji is growing, our economy is growing, and our population is growing, and our health system is growing as well, as we put in the services, infrastructure and personnel to meet the increasing demand for high-quality health services across the country.

Take, for example, CWM, where we’ve seen an increase in live births from just under 6,500 in 2006 to 8,500 last year, with that figure spiking as high as 9,100 in 2010. And as we’ve seen more and more babies born here, and across the country, we have steadily invested in training our doctors and nurses, recruiting additional personnel, and putting the right people in the right positions based on their ability to do the job well, because merit always matters, especially when it comes to the health of Fijian mothers and babies. We’re purchasing more modern medical equipment, here at CWM and across the country, and we’ve opened and upgraded new health facilities at Makoi, Beqa, Tailevu, Tavua, Sigatoka, and Cuvu to name a few, and soon as well as in Rotuma, Nakasi, Navosa, Naduri, Ba and Lautoka. And we are investing in community-based approaches that raise awareness on health issues, and give Fijians the tools they need to make healthy decisions and take greater responsibility for their own health.

We’re seeing big returns on that investment. When it comes to maternal health, last year, we recorded the lowest stillbirth rate in Fijian history, at an average of 6 per 1,000 births, and we’ve brought down maternal mortality from 43.5 per 100,000 births in 2006 to 35.6 last year. But, anywhere in the world, more can always be done, and we are constantly looking for new opportunities to take healthcare in Fiji to the next level, especially when it comes to caring for Fijian mothers and new-borns.

That is why I know this ground breaking ceremony holds special significance for all the parents who are here among us this morning, myself included. Because, among many new service offerings, this new women’s health unit will vastly improve and expand maternal services at CWM.

For me personally, being here at CWM brings back the very special memories of the birth of my own children, all of whom were born right here at this Hospital. Now, of course, as all the mothers here know, it was my wife, Mary, who was doing the real work. But I can still remember my own anxiety, the long hours of waiting, and ultimately, the sense of relief and the joy that washed over me when each of my children were born.

Every parent remembers those moments as you awaited the birth of a child; you remember how stressful of a time that can be. In those moments, you are putting your faith in our health system, and in the doctors and nurses who are there to serve you. And every mother deserves the peace of mind and comfort that their child is being delivered safely, in a clean and hygienic space, by qualified and capable health professionals.

That is a big part of what this planned upgrade is about. We are extending the existing CWM Maternity Ward into a 200-bed facility with everything you’d expect to find in a hospital in Australia and New Zealand, even down to the spacing in between the beds, to give mothers greater privacy and to accommodate various treatments.

But that’s only part of what will be offered. We are also integrating clinical services offered to Fijian women to a level that Fiji has never seen before. We’ll be putting in post, ante and neonatal facilities; a first stage delivery room; a post anaesthetics delivery unit; eight new delivery rooms; three new operating theatres; a palliative Care Ward; a High Dependency Unit; conference rooms; ultrasound and x-ray capabilities, a family planning office, all built to the same standard you will find in any hospital in more developed countries.

Currently, CWM houses its maternity ward and operating theatres at opposite ends of the hospital. That’s going to change when this unit opens its doors. There won’t be a need to wheel patients across to an operating theatre through crowded public walkways. Surgeries will be able to happen in this Women’s Health Unit. Beyond that, it will offer counselling services, even day care services, along with sub-specialty offerings such as uro-gynaecology and fertility services.

This ceremony marks the beginning of the first phase of the construction works on this hospital, as we lay the groundwork for this massive upgrade, while ensuring that this hospital is still fully capable of serving the general public.

Anyone who knows a thing about building and construction knows that you need a solid foundation to build something that lasts. And, as is often the case in Fiji, the short-sighted development mentality of past leadership can make massive upgrades, such as this, difficult or impossible for existing facilities. That is also the case at CWM. But because my Government is not a Government that tolerates slapstick solutions, during this first phase of construction we are going to establish a strong foundation upon which we can build up this new health facility to serve Fijians now, and generations of Fijians to come. Because when it comes to the health of our people, we cannot accept shortcuts or quick fixes. We need real change that leads to real, long-term and measurable improvements in our people’s health.

We also cannot accept anyone trying to make political football out of the health of our people, and we certainly cannot accept outright lies about the performance of ourhealth system, or about the private medical information of any Fijian.

I am deeply troubled to hear that on social media we’ve seen postings from cowards hiding behind fake profiles, who have used the tragic deaths of some patients in Fijian hospitals to tell disturbing lies about what’s happened to them, all to attack our doctors, nurses and staff and shake the faith of the Fijian people in our health system.

The loss of a loved one is an incredibly emotional time for any family, and to think that there are actually people out there who are trying to take advantage of these tragedies for their own agenda – it makes me sick to even think about. I can’t imagine the pain of those families, who have had to watch lies being told about their lost loved ones, on Facebook or elsewhere, all to score political points at their expense, and the expense of our health professionals. It’s sick behaviour, and it needs to be condemned. As a society, we cannot let grieving families, those of us who are most vulnerable, be lied about, exploited and abused online. And I urge every Fijian to pause and think before you share that sort of information on your social media. When there is a real issue, my Government has systems and people in place to step in and do what’s needed to be done. If you have a real issue, you can report your feedback to toll-free number 157. But getting on social media and spreading lies online is never okay, and it is incredibly harmful to Fijian families.

Make no mistake, these fake profiles aren’t lying for the good of Fiji; they are lying to confuse the public and promote different political interests. But we’re not focussed on politically-motivated lies; my Government is focussed on real steps to improving medical care in Fiji.

That is why we’ve opened 12 new health facilities, in rural and urban areas alike, since 2009, among other upgrades and extensions as well. That is why, just last week, I launched the MLC Veivueti, a new eight-million-dollar medical ship that will bring medical services to maritime communities. That is why we are recruiting more doctors and nurses, and increasing their salaries. That is why we are bringing in an internationally-certified private sector operator to vastly upgrade and provide advance tertiary care at the Ba and Lautoka hospitals. And that is why we are breaking ground on this project today, a project that will revolutionise CWM, and give our women the comfort and assurance that only high-quality healthcare services can deliver.

Now, I have great pleasure to officially break ground on the Suva Women’s Health Unit.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


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