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3rd Annual Conference for the Internal Medicine Organization of the Pacific (iMOP)

August 26, 2016       Holiday Inn, Suva

The President of the Internal Medicine Organization of the Pacific, Dr. Jioji Malani,
Distinguished guests and participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ni sa bula Vinaka, namaste, asalaam alaykum, ni hao, noa’ia‘e mauri, and a very good morning to you all.

I had the privilege this past Tuesday of opening the World Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training at the Grand Pacific Hotel.  I conveyed our apologies to overseas visitors from 40 countries-educators and academics to bear with us if they found our service providers in an extraordinary celebratory mood.

I am sure you will all also understand what winning an Olympic gold medal means to a young, developing and rugby-mad loving country like Fiji. In fact, the whole nation is still on a high and festive celebratory mode and as we gather here in the capital city this morning as the Olympic Champions have just arrived in the Northern town of Labasa for all Fijians in the Northern Division to welcome our heroes in another true Fijian style.

To our esteemed visitors from overseas, I would like to extend a very warm and special welcome to you all. I welcome in particular the participants from our neighbouring countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Australia and New Zealand.

I am deeply honoured to join you this morning to officially open the Third Annual Scientific Conference here in the bustling city of Suva. It is my humble opinion that the theme for the conference “Infectious Diseases – Threats and Opportunities” is most timely and apt.

Over the past few years, outbreaks of deadly viruses and resistant bacteria have caused havoc in many nations. The recent outbreak of Zika Virus even threatened the success of the Rio Olympics. These diseases have also affected many Pacific Island nations that have limited resources and expertise to effectively manage and prevent their spread.

Fiji is no exception. It has suffered from outbreaks in numbers of hepatitis A, leptospirosis, typhoid and dengue fever. Recently, our Ministry of Health and Medical services had tried to deal with cases of Zika, Chikungunya and newer strains of Influenza.  Additionally, rising numbers in HIV/AIDS and Non-Communicable Diseases create significant burden on health services and the associated rising costs of treating them inevitably causes further strain to our national economy.

On a positive note, these outbreaks bring to the fore certain deficiencies in the health care systems in Pacific Islands Countries. They provide an opportunity for all of us to improve our knowledge, experience, and health care services. They also allow us to create partnerships with experts and organisations to improve health care systems and facilities.

More importantly, it enables our people to be more aware about healthy lifestyles, hygiene and good sanitation and hopefully compel them to make the right choices for their own wellbeing.

As Fiji’s lead advocate and champion in our campaign to eliminate NCDs, I relate very closely to the challenges that Pacific Islands Countries face.  I am also very encouraged that we are making every effort to address the challenges. I consider NCDs and related ailments as a scourge and a clear and present threat to national social and economic progress which requires our collective attention and remedial action.

For Fiji in particular, the right to access healthcare services including reproductive health services is guaranteed in our Constitution. This right to health is indispensable to realizing the rights to life and dignity for all people.

Some of the challenges to realizing this right include the need for new scientific technologies to prevent, diagnose and treat all illnesses, the need to strengthen public health systems through investment and support, and the need to ensure access to clean water, nutrition, decent shelter and evidence-based public education.

As Fiji’s President, I am pleased to note that Fiji is making significant headway towards overcoming most of these challenges. The Fijian Government, for instance, has placed unprecedented focus and attention on improving the infrastructure, education, and health sectors, which for the most part of the past decade have received the highest budgetary allocations.

The allocation of significant resources and attention to these sectors has come after detailed analysis of Fiji’s real needs or, simply put, where we need to invest in order that we can achieve our ultimate objective of a healthy and prosperous nation.

The focus on education has resulted in the provision of free education from pre-school right up to secondary level. It has also resulted in the re-prioritisation of tertiary scholarships to enable Fijians to achieve higher qualifications in areas like science and technology, including medical science, among others. Government continues to reform the education system and is also investing significantly in both academic and vocational education and training in the effort to attain a healthy and knowledge-based society.

The focus on the health sector is essentially on repositioning the country’s health system not only to cater for the increased demands for improved health care driven by an improving socio-economic status, but also importantly to put in place appropriate approaches to preventative and curative measures. In view of this, our health authorities are receptive to new ideas and proposals that will assist in achieving targeted outcomes and national goals.

Government has also channeled record-level resources to improving the country’s water supply system by extending treated and piped water to more rural and urban communities. Fiji’s water standard is consistent with the requirements of the World Health Organisation, which places it among the most hygienic and safest at least in the region.

As a young and developing Nation, all these developments are and will continue to be on-going as work are in progress.

This is why I also would like to commend and congratulate your organisation; the Internal Medicine Organization of the Pacific, for establishing what I understand is a very special forum within the broader health sector.

I am reliably informed that Internal Medicine is a specialised field in medicine that diagnoses and manages patients from adolescence to adulthood with medical problems that are not surgical, obstetric of gynaecological, in a major hospital.

I have a plea to all health professionals to be more understanding and compassionate with your patients so that when they leave your clinic, ward or outpatient, they leave with the satisfaction that the care provided to them is of the highest standard. They leave satisfied and in high hope and in great respect of you.

In a time of high technological advances in medicine, what is striking is the number and complexity of flashing monitors one would encounter next to a patient, which could be confusing to the patient and loved ones and it is our collective responsibility to reassure them that they will be well looked after.

I note with appreciation that your organization has brought together specialists from the public and private sector, academics, and international presenters from reputable Heath and Medical establishments to share knowledge and skills with a view to providing quality healthcare in the field of internal medicine within the region.

Indeed, an Annual Scientific Conference such as this is an ideal opportunity to come together as medical professionals to discuss issues of mutual interest, share your experiences and more importantly, learn from one another.

You are meeting at an opportune time in the history of healthcare in this country when the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is developing a policy framework to guide and improve service delivery in the country.

I congratulate you once again and I encourage your organisation and all participants here to play a leading role in the control of infectious diseases in the region by sharing your knowledge and experience and expanding your knowledge and skills and by collaborating with relevant international counterparts.

I also challenge you to follow in the footsteps of our victorious Olympic gold medal winning Fiji Sevens team, who have defied all odds and barriers to achieve glory.

With these remarks, ladies and gentlemen, I now take great pleasure in officially opening the Internal Medicine Organization of the Pacific third Annual Scientific Conference.

I wish the conference a resounding success and I look forward to learning of the outcomes of your deliberations and how we can collectively work together in maintaining and improving the standard and quality of lives within our respective communities.

To all our overseas visitors I hope that by the end of this Conference you will be able to find time to enjoy our Fijian hospitality and may you have a safe return journey home.

May Almighty God bless you all and our beloved nation, Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu, dhanyavaad, sukria, fai’eksia and thank you.