There have been over 63,000 COVID-19 infections in Fiji since the start of the pandemic. Compared to large, developed nations, these numbers may appear small. However, the population of Fiji sits under 900,000.
Additionally, there is a lack of adequate community healthcare systems. This makes new COVID-19 surges more deadly.
Recently, Fiji has undergone a third pandemic surge. Poor infrastructure and health access create challenges. Combined with natural disasters and the results are devastating.
One of those challenges has been Aspen Medical’s pitfalls. While it aimed to combine private with public sectors, it created more problems for Fiji citizens.
If you want to learn more about Fiji’s community healthcare systems, we have you covered. We will go over different healthcare in Fiji and how Aspen Medical fits into the picture, so keep reading on for more information!
What Are Community Healthcare Systems?
In strong, developed nations, there are several types of healthcare systems, from private to public. In developing or smaller countries, it is not necessary or profitable to start individual companies without government backup.
Government contracts create community healthcare systems. In theory, community healthcare systems should provide extensive health coverage. Prices are also more affordable or sometimes free.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many flaws in these countries that have tried to adopt a healthy community healthcare system. Here are a few challenges to a community healthcare system:
- Lack of hospitals
- Lack of providers
- Lack of emergency transportation
Ultimately, many of these community healthcare hospitals should thrive on the backing of government support. However, most must fend for themselves with little monetary or resource support.
Is Private or Public Healthcare More Beneficial?
Before diving into some of the specific problems surrounding healthcare in Fiji, it helps to know the difference between public and private healthcare. Here is a simple way to think about it.
Public healthcare systems are often cheaper (or free) and more accessible. They aim to provide bulk coverage for many citizens.
Private sectors are often more expensive. They charge prices for community services that are often given in developed nations, such as access to clean drinking water. However, private sectors attempt to bridge health coverage where public systems lack.
In theory, this sounds great. In practice, there are several challenges.
Money can incentivise the wrong individuals or corporations. Public-private partnerships are a third model.
At its core, public-private partnerships are when private industries partner with the government. It can leverage financial and technological capabilities but could also lead to corruption.
Fiji’s Healthcare System
Fiji includes over 330 islands, posing unique challenges to its healthcare system. For one, you need reliable health services across a large geographical region. Next, you have maritime challenges.
Delivering healthcare across an ocean creates added emergency transportation issues. Fiji operates under the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Private health systems are mainly in Suva or Nadi.
Public healthcare in Fiji lags in infrastructure, facilities, and quality health services. Most of these community or public healthcare systems are in Fiji’s poorer or more remote areas.
Since 2017, nearly 70% of government spending has targeted health systems. Some of the spending have gone toward private sectors, which hold the best health resources and offer 24/7 services. Other portions have gone toward underdeveloped community hospitals.
What Is FEMAT?
In 2019, an international deployment team created FEMAT. FEMAT stands for Fiji’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team. The goal of FEMAT is to assist the Pacific Islands with emergency health services.
FEMAT can provide initial emergency care through field hospitals. Since Fiji is a hotspot for natural disasters, teams like FEMAT are necessary to mitigate immediate injuries. However, you can probably spot a few flaws.
For starters, FEMAT is not a health system. It is a component of emergency health services. FEMAT can reduce the burden of community Fiji hospitals that become overrun when disaster hits.
If a patient needs long-term treatments, they still lack sufficient care.
Fiji’s Public Health Systems
Public health system access varies across Fiji. It is difficult to assume a standardised level of care since it will fluctuate in rural versus urban communities.
If someone lives in a rural community, private hospitals cannot be accessed. The only Fiji healthcare system is public hospitals with limited resources and providers.
There are 25 hospitals in Fiji, with four primary ones. The main public hospitals in Fiji are located on:
- Viti Levu
- Vanua Levu
The largest hospital, known as Colonial War Memorial Hospital, is located on the island of Suva. Rural facilities are small and fairly inefficient in handling health needs.
Community Health System Challenges
We have already touched on some key points to community health system challenges, including:
FEMAT is a step toward addressing emergency health services in Fiji. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a few more points.
These include things such as funding, economic resilience, natural disasters, and accessibility. Even vaccine roll-outs are more of a challenge largely from financial and distribution issues.
Community health challenges include sanitation and equipment. For example, some hospitals may not have imaging available for an accurate diagnosis. Recent partnerships and projects have drastically increased the accessibility to clean drinking water.
This critical step forward helps reduce water-borne illnesses. It also improves sanitation for hospitals.
Are Private Healthcare Systems the Answer?
Now that you have read more about the challenges of community health systems in Fiji, you may wonder if private healthcare is the answer. Unfortunately, it is a bit more convoluted than a simple yes or no.
The Fiji government signed a contract with Aspen Medical in 2018. This 23-year contract gave Aspen Medical – a private institution – access to two main hospitals.
The goal was to upgrade Lautoka and Ba hospitals, such as:
- Fixing infrastructure
- Adding beds
- Implementing innovative technology
These changes were supposed to be finalised by June 2021. However, by May, the Lautoka hospital shut down from COVID-19 cases. It has not reopened since.
With only one hospital running, even greater limitations in health access have ensued. With the challenges COVID-19 has shown, citizens have limited access to essential vaccines.
Instead, citizens were rerouted to field hospitals and inefficient hospitals. The limitations in health access and COVID-19 vaccines have undoubtedly increased death rates.
Is Aspen Medical or the Fiji Government To Blame?
In theory, public-private partnerships could bring citizens more money. It boosts technology and adequate health coverage. However, based on the example above, there are also several risks.
Recent allegations have Aspen Medical committing various corruptions across Fiji’s health systems. Plans for new hospitals are inactive, and old hospitals are being shut down.
While Aspen Medical is entirely to blame for its downfalls, the government cannot be neglected. Instead, Aspen Medical must hold accountable for its actions.
In return, contracts need to specify goals and objectives. They must hold private sectors responsible for unjust actions that harm citizens.
Fiji Healthcare Solutions
How can you improve healthcare in developing countries? If there were one simple answer to this question, it would solve many global issues. Here are some health areas to develop:
- Number of primary care centres and providers
- Improved training
- Improved funding
- Improved vaccine access
- Improved organisation
For example, increasing physician training can boost health treatments for debilitating diseases. Combined with increased funding, it expands the opportunity for technology-driven healthcare.
As seen previously, there aren’t enough providers or centres for Fiji residents. Without hospital beds or facilities, many are suffering alone without adequate help. This reduces vaccine or treatment access.
The government must organise facilities. They can direct their funding toward solutions that improve health access rather than hinder it.
In 2017, a study analysis was conducted in Fiji. Before the pandemic even hit, experts found that universal health coverage was critical for health equity. Additionally, it was suggested that indirect taxes needed adjustments. At this time, Fiji’s health system was seen as progressive.
Recent failures from Aspen Medical show how slippery of a slope it can be. Developing nations must plan for unexpected disasters within their health systems.
Learn More About Fiji’s Health Systems
Community healthcare systems are essential to developing nations’ health plans. They provide access to many rural communities. It is affordable and improves the health of a nation.
When private sectors take over, they can offer more comprehensive services. However, Aspen Medical was a contract gone wrong. Instead, it reduced health access and hospital beds.
In return, Aspen Medical limited vaccine roll-outs, increasing COVID-19 deaths. To learn more about Aspen Medical’s failures and the ongoing healthcare crisis in Fiji, check out the rest of our blog!