Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete has proved that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made the right decision to appoint him Minister for Health and Medical Services.
In his first year, he has ticked all the boxes.
Policies and changes he has introduced have led to a significant reduction in the number of complaints going directly to the Prime Minister’s Office and the PM himself.
The complaints trend has now plateaued. Complaints are still going in but the ministry acts on them immediately.
Medical associates who have worked with him as a top surgeon at Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva say he approached his job with passion.
He has taken the same passion and intensity into the public and political arena.
Dr Waqainabete has debunked a theory that medical doctors are not necessarily good administrators.
After his success at the 2018 General Election, he emerged as the logical choice for health minister.
His predecessor, Rosy Akbar, moved to education, whereby all accounts, she is doing well because she is a former school teacher and that helps.
Dr Waqainabete’s field visits were talked about much in the health and medical sector.
He would spend half a day in the office and the rest of the day he would go out with a small team for unannounced site visits.
He would see things as they were first hand and speak to ordinary people about their issues.
The community visits and talanoa sessions are part of his proactive strategy to gain greater visibility on the ground for the ministry.
Through these programmes the ministry has been working to improve health, sanitation and clean water.
So far the ministry has facilitated the setting up of up to 400 water sealed toilets in Namosi, Naitasiri and Tailevu.
When he started last year, he asked the ministry to concentrate on:
The improvement has been significant. But, he knows that there is still room for improvement. This is the way it is in health.
Processes and systems have been improved to reduce waiting times.
For example, the patient flow at the previously busy Valelevu Health Centre is much better now.
Among the notable achievements in his first 12 months include:
Fiji Emergency Medical Team
It is accredited by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is ranked ninth in the World and the first in Small Island Developing States (SIDSs). The Ministry of Health has learned a lot from natural and man-made disasters and have been slowly building. Experience has also been gained from the many Health-Medical deployments with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to the Middle East. Dr Luke Nasedra as FEMAT Head and Mr Vimal have taken FEMAT and it’s outreach hospital and Surgical teams to Korovou, Sigatoka, Lau group and at the moment with the MV Veivueti in Kadavu.
Universal Health Coverage
Dr Waqainabete has been a strong advocate of Universal Health Coverage which is inclusive irrespective of the people’s socioeconomic backgrounds. These principles are in keeping with Mr Bainimarama’s vision for equity in health services delivery. These are
No one should be left behind.
Reaching the unreached
Decreasing the out-of-pocket expenditures for Fijians seeking health and medical attention
The ministry has introduced specialist clinics to Health Centres and Subdivisional and district hospitals, using specialists from CWM, Lautoka and Labasa Hospitals.
Dr Waqainabete has been working hard in visiting and talking to Health professionals to be compassionate and display unity. His empathy for health and medical staff both in rural and urban facilities is helping to change morale. As a doctor himself he understands their challenges. We may have the best facilities but if the staff are not efficient or professional in their attitude then the service standard will decline and patients will suffer.
The ministry is working to improve health protection and trying to reduce infectious diseases like Dengue, Lepto and Typhoid.
This measles outbreak will test its preparedness and resilience and at the moment it is holding.
Dr Waqainabete and his team have done a commendable job in containing measles and stopping its spread.