My fellow Fijians, Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all. 

It’s wonderful to be on Rabi again as I continue my latest visit to the Northern Division.

I’m here to listen to your concerns and to see the progress being made in the Government’s program to deliver better services to ordinary Fijians.

As I keep saying, this is our most important task – to not just promise better access to electricity, clean water, roads and government services but provide them.

Unlike previous governments, we keep our promises. We deliver. And this is especially appreciated by people in the North, many of whom have felt badly neglected in the past.

People have been saying to me in various parts of Fiji: “Why have an election at all next year? We’re happy with things the way they are”. It’s a recognition of the hard work the Government is putting into service delivery. Our program is on track. We know where we’re heading and it’s towards building a better Fiji for everyone.

Why has it taken so long for Fijians to get the services they deserve? In previous constitutions, we had the so-called entrenched provisions – the Rabi Island Act, the Rotuma Island Act and so on but there was no tangible progress, no development. What we are determined to do is give them the things they need to empower them – better access to telecommunications, better access to affordable higher education, access to legal aid services, skills training for our young people and better and affordable housing.

And as I said in Bua on Monday, nothing is more important than providing for the health and physical wellbeing of all Fijians.  Which is why today is an important milestone  – the opening of the refurbished Rabi Health Centre.

Rabi is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Health in its efforts to control Tuberculosis, which is a serious threat to everyone on this island. Indeed, we have a crisis here that requires decisive action.

The incidence of TB on Rabi is 22 times higher than the national average. – 513 TB cases per 100,000 people compared with 23 cases per 100,000 in the rest of Fiji. Indeed, our experts warn us that if TB is not controlled, the disease has the potential to wipe out the population here in just a few years.

So we are moving decisively to address this crisis by upgrading the Rabi Health Center and providing it with the equipment and services it needs to fulfill the needs of the people.

The Ministry of Health has categorized this facility as a Directly Observed Treatment Short course center – or DOTS.  This means that people in Rabi can readily access TB services for free.

As a DOTs treatment centre, Rabi gets its own x-ray machine that gives doctors the ability to better diagnose tuberculosis, as well as a range of other ailments.

The doctors also have new equipment to conduct sputum and blood tests.

For TB patients receiving treatment, we are providing better support and more comfortable surroundings in our refurbished 10-bed ward. And we are also supporting their families with better access to advice and counseling.

For ordinary people – this upgrade has some other important benefits.

TB patients will remain in Rabi, close to their homes and families during the entire course of their treatment.  They no longer have to travel to Labasa hospital or Tamavua hospital in Suva to spend the usual two months there being treated.

We’ll be able to diagnose TB quicker and reduce the number of deaths that occur from TB or other diseases because of delayed diagnosis.

And because everything is here, we can do a lot more to involve the community in the care of patients while increasing general  awareness  about the disease.

Once again, we’re seeing the benefits of the partnership between Government and the private sector and I want to pay tribute to those who’ve made this project possible.

It’s been led by the Grant Management Unit of Global Fund based at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Suva. Not only has Global Fund carried out the refurbishment. It has provided a 7 foot fiberglass outboard sea ambulance, a Suzuki motorcycle, five new beds and a new 50-panel solar system. It’s also funding overseas training in TB treatment for one of our medical officers.

At the same time, the Rotary Club of Taveuni has donated a new incubator for new- born babies and an ultrasound machine. This is a wonderful partnership and I want to thank you all. Vinaka Vakalevu.

To the people of Rabi, I want to say: This is your health facility.  Use it well. Make sure you come here as soon as you suspect you are ill because the quicker TB is diagnosed, the quicker it can be effectively treated. The same goes for other diseases as well.

Of course, prevention is better than cure and I also urge the Rabi Council of Elders and the people of Rabi to work with the Health Centre and other government agencies to promote healthier lifestyles on the part of our people.

As I’ve told other gatherings on this tour, we can all eat less and exercise more. We can eat better foods – more fresh fish, fruit and green vegetables.  We can drink less alcohol and yaqona. And we all need to give up smoking.

My Government is building a new Fiji based on equality for everyone – a country in which we are all Fijians and our children grow up with the same opportunities.  We also want them to be healthy. So it’s our responsibility to be role models for them by pursuing healthy lifestyles ourselves and encouraging them to follow our example.

On that note, I have great pleasure in declaring the upgraded Rabi Health Centre open.

Vinaka Vakalevu.

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