FWCC condemns comments by Health Minister 

Shamima Ali. File Photo.


The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre condemns comments made by the Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma regarding the plight of a mother who was forced to give birth on a bench outside the Seaqaqa Health Centre last month.

The woman’s story is reported in today’s Fiji Times, detailing how she went to the Seaqaqa Health Centre at 3am on 15 July with her aunt only to find it closed. The woman’s aunt then proceeded to the health ministry staff quarters to seek help. There was no response despite numerous attempts at waking someone by knocking on their doors.

At 3.30am, the woman gave birth on a bench outside the health centre where she remained until three hours later, breast feeding her baby who still had the umbilical cord attached.

The FWCC fully sympathizes with the mother and hopes no other woman goes through this experience and we are shocked at how the health minister responded to the situation where he blatantly blamed the woman for getting herself into that situation.

Below is what Fiji’s Health Minister is quoted as saying in The Fiji Times.

“Try and understand that if someone turns up at 3.30am and if the staffs aren’t there, then they need to move on to Labasa or be able to arouse someone in that area,” Mr Sharma said. 

“There is a police station and there are other civil service facilities to be able to notify somebody to do something rather than hang around and wait. 

“So that is an error on her part but at the same time, health centres ought to have somebody on stand-by and we are carrying out our own internal investigations.” 

From what we’ve read there’s been no attempt whatsoever by the minister to ensure or even enquire about the health and welfare of mother and child, instead he seems to have jumped straight in to the blame game, targeting the mother and protecting his staff who were supposed to be there for the people of Fiji.

He then says the mother should have proceeded to Labasa, a statement that totally contradicts the Health Ministry’s constant ramblings about how mothers should give birth at their nearest health centers instead of always travelling to major hospitals.

And then he says they should have awoken other civil servants around the area if they couldn’t have got to health staff.

Where then does this leave the credibility of our health care system? Time and again we read and hear about such stories and majority of the time, those who suffer because of the neglect and poor services provided by hospital and health centre staff are women and most times its women during childbirth.

“This is absolutely outrageous coming from a man who is responsible for the way our health system is run. This isn’t the first time Dr Sharma has made such unacceptable comments and despite our complaints and calls for justice for these women, he continues to do the same.

“How can people, especially women feel safe and cared for? How can they trust a system where at the helm, you have a man who is quick to point fingers and blame women instead of trying to help them? It’s a pity that women have to put up with this type of treatment over and over again. A true leader accepts mistakes and corrects them,” said Ms Shamima Ali, FWCC Coordinator.



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