By IAN M. KAUKUI
Solomon Islands Medical Association (SIMA) is calling for changes to the way MPs access medical treatment overseas.
Under their parliamentary entitlements, MPs are entitled to tax-payers’ funded medical attention abroad if they are sick.
Normally, and because of the huge cost involved, those travelling under tax-payer funded medical trips must be recommended by a local medical authority.
However, most MPs never go through that process.
This is why SIMA wants to see changes to the process so that it is fair to everyone and save the country money in terms of medical costs.
According to SIMA president Dr Claude Posala, there is an Overseas Referral Committee (ORC) at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara.
It was made up of clinical consultant specialists from each of the various clinical departments at the NRH.
ORC’s role is to screen and decide on medical cases referred to it for overseas treatment.
However, Dr Posala said a good number of medical cases involving MPs were never sent through the ORC for screening and recommendation.
“Therefore, some cases which can be dealt with at the NRH were instead sent overseas, creating hefty cost to tax payers,” Dr Posala said.
To ensure the process is fair, Dr Posala urges the Parliamentary Entitlement Commission (PEC) to amend the Parliamentary Entitlement Regulations (PER) in regards to MPs’ overseas medical attention benefit.
“SIMA would like to see all medical attention abroad, whether it is a MP or a contract holder, all overseas referral requests must be vetted through the NRH overseas referral committee (ORC).
“This is to ensure transparency and to prevent abuse of this public system of overseas referral.”
The SIMA president’s comments came following recent reports that the 10-bed arrangement Solomon Islands used to have with St Vincent Hospital in Sydney, Australia, has been put on hold.
Caretaker health minister Dr Kaitu’u Agikimua, in a speech he delivered in parliament last month, blamed public criticism of the coordinator of the 10-bed arrangement, Sir Trevor Garland, as reason for the program being put on hold.
In a commentary published in the Solomon Star last week, Dr Posala said MPs will not be affected by the halt to the 10-bed arrangement.
He also said politicians have in the past abused the 10-bed arrangement by bypassing the NRH overseas referral committee (ORC) a good number of times.
It’s being estimated that the cost of funding one MP to get medical attention abroad would range between $300,000 to half a million dollar.
A recently published Public Accounts Committee Report said about half of the MPs in the last House have medical issues.