The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) wishes to clarify and correct a recent media report, which highlighted that WHO office in Solomon Islands has warned not to overlook other health priorities in the wake of COVID-19, which a local media published and later republished by a regional media.
The article was derived from the COVID-19 radio talk back show held on Sunday 26th of July. During the questions and answers segment, a member of the public raised a concern on the bed capacity of the National Referral Hospital’s to cater for patients suffering from NCD (non-communicable diseases) during COVID-19 outbreak.
The response provided to the question was from MHMS Permanent Secretary Mrs. Pauline McNeil and Dr. Yogesh Choudhri who is MHMS’s Health Emergencies and International Health Regulations advisor. Dr Choudhri is not a WHO technical advisor as reported. As such there was never a caution or warning issued by WHO to the MHMS on this matter.
In her response to the question, PS Mrs McNeil explained that MHMS is aware of this and discussions with the Honiara City Council (HCC) are already underway to use the Multi-Purpose Hall in the event of a surge of COVID-19 patients especially for mild cases. “We have only nine rooms, self-contained at the NRH’s isolation ward 1 and 2. As such we are currently in discussions with HCC to secure multi -purpose hall and in principal they have agreed so we will make an assessment on preparing the hall into an isolation ward especially for COVID-19 mild cases”.
She further explained that in addressing other health issues such as NCDs, the NRH has over 300 beds which can cater for many of our patients suffering from NCDs. “However in the event that there is also a much bigger surge of NCD cases then the Ministry will obviously have to look for more spaces”, stated Mrs McNeil.
Dr. Choudhri on the other hand indicated that the MHMS is aware of the need for a balanced approach towards COVID-19 response and other medical and health priorities. “With this, we have had internal discussions on these matter on how we are doing in terms of NCDs, Immunization etc to ensure that those services are not suffering from COVID-19 response”.
Dr. Choudhri said that MHMS is also looking at alternative spaces for COVID-19 patients as part of preparations, which includes the recently established isolation beds at Gizo hospital while working on setting up similar units at the Nila Health Care centre in the Shortland Islands which is now in its advanced stages of establishment. “This we are doing to minimize the burden on NRH and other hospitals so they can continue to cater for the usual population of NCDs, mother and child including immunization services and so forth”.
He concluded the response to the question stating that although this is a testing time for everyone, it is important to note that MHMS is trying its very best to ensure that all other services remain functional in light of the COVID-19 response.
With this the MHMS wishes to remind media friends to work closely with MHMS for correct names and job titles to ensure that we continue to provide accurate information and news and correct representation of views and opinions of our donors and development partners.