By ANDREW FANASIA
SERVICES at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in Honiara have been scaled down starting last Thursday to allow doctors, nurses, and other medical workers to travel and vote in their home constituencies.
That’s according to hospital chief executive officer Dr Steve Aumanu in an internal memo he issued to staff on Wednesday.
The nation goes to the polls on April 3.
“Clinical services at the NRH will be scaled down to emergency mode for the period 28th March to 8th April 2019,” Aumanu said.
"There will be no electives and referral clinics will be closed,” he added.
"All normal services will return on the 8th of April 2019.”
The decision has been widely discussed in social media forums, with calls to include doctors, nurses, and other health workers in future pre-pollings.
Last week, police, Correctional officers, and Electoral Commission staff cast their ballots in pre-polling votes the commission organised.
But according to Chief Electoral Officer Mose Saitala health workers were not prescribed under law to participate in pre-polling.
He told reporters this week that electoral officers, police, and Correctional officers have been allowed under law to cast their votes through pre-polling.
“These officers were unable to vote since independence because they normally work on polling day,” Saitala said.
“But they are now allowed under law to cast their votes through pre-polling,” he added.
“Essential service officers, including doctors, nurses and other health professionals need to be prescribed by regulation so they can be able to vote through pre-polling.
"In other words, unless the regulation is provided it is difficult to allow these essential service officers to cast their ballot papers through pre polling," Saitala explained.
Meanwhile, a nurse working at the NRH told the Solomon Star ward services will be seriously affected.
"Some wards at the NRH will only have 2-3 nurses to serve, and with the 8 hour shifts three times daily, there will be no nurses to work those shifts,” she said.
"This is the scenario for the coming week, starting today," the nurse, who asked not to be named, added.
“Definitely, services will be affected and sick patients will suffer as a direct result.”
She said authorities should include doctors and nurse in pre-polling like they did for election workers and police officers.
A doctor who spoke to the Solomon Star said excluding health workers from pre-polling is an oversight made by electoral authorities.
“They should know health workers are needed at their workplaces on polling day to continue their service to the public so they should be accorded pre-polling privileges,” the doctor said.
Saitala told reporters this week his office will revise current electoral laws concerning pre-polling to address the issue in future.