Patterns of illness on St Helena are to be studied to help re-shape the health service on the island – where rates of diabetes and hypertension are among the highest in the world. IAN RUMMERY, chairman of the the island’s public health committee, explains why big changes are needed – with more patients being sent overseas for treatment.
Our current hospital is in a high-risk rockfall area. It is an old building on a small site and if it was to be redeveloped it would have to be done while it was still operating as a hospital.
My opinion, and that of Legislative Council, is that a new hospital is required for the island.
The “plan” for the hospital is not a plan for a building, but rather what service we propose to deliver. It is really the business case, which I hope would lead to a new hospital building.
The current increase in overseas medical referrals is partly due to the inadequacy of the present operating theatre, and the fact that we are sending people away for diagnosis because we do not have the equipment here.
The focus on a new operating theatre and diagnostic suite is to make the hospital fit for purpose for the present, and improve some of the facilities – toilets, bathrooms etc.
This cannot wait. And any new hospital, even if funding is approved, will take years to construct.
We need to determine exactly what service we should be providing, and future-proof the demands on the health service.
Efforts are being made to analyse some of the data to look at rates of illness. These will be published once finalised, in order to serve as the basis as a discussion on “the health of the island”.
We need to provide more information on healthy lifestyles and for people to take more responsibility for their health.
We also need to provide more information on the systems in place so that people are aware of how things work: for example, the medical referrals procedure. We need to tell people how this policy is implemented.
It is a huge shift to even get to the point where DFID are willing to look at a plan, as the previous stance was, “No new hospital”.