Mon. May 25th, 2020

Statement from the Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services to all MOH Staff

The Ministry has been made aware of a video showing Lautoka Hospital staff celebrating the release of our first recovered Covid-19 patients. The footage depicts a large gathering in which the very physical distancing principles advocated by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services are not observed.

To say that Minister and I were disappointed to see this is an understatement.

I am well aware of how hard our staff at Lautoka Hospital have been working to treat and contain COVID-19. Our healthcare staff should understand better than anyone that even one careless moment –– a seemingly-innocent hug or misplaced cough –– can spread the disease and put lives at risk. Unfortunately, what we saw at Lautoka Hospital went against everything the Ministry has projected to the public to keep Fiji safe and healthy. Anyone in that crowd could have been a silent carrier of the virus.

Every healthcare worker, in Lautoka and across the country, needs to lead by example through their strict adherence to our health protection measures –– including our ban on public gatherings and the maintenance of two metres of physical distance as much as possible. We are in this together, and we cannot let Fiji down. The failings of even a single healthcare worker could undo all of the tireless efforts of our multi-agency Incident Management Team, the staff in tertiary hospitals, those setting up fever clinics and isolation facilities, our mobile fever clinic staff, our contact tracing teams, our disciplined forces and all of the Fijians putting in countless hours to stomp out this virus.

Last night I advised all Divisional Medical Officers and Medical Superintendents to remind their staff that there will be zero tolerance for any violations of our health protection measures within the Ministry. I have also instructed the Head of Human Resources to convene an investigation panel with a majority of external members to conduct a disciplinary investigation that reports directly to me, consistent with the Public Service Commission Disciplinary Guidelines.

We’re all elated that we’ve seen our patients recover from COVID-19. But it isn’t cause for reckless celebration, and it isn’t an excuse to do away with our diligence. If we drop our guard now, we’ll see our isolation wards re-filled with more patients who have contracted this deadly virus. We cannot allow that to happen. I hope that all of my staff have learned a valuable lesson from this, and will consistently exercise exemplary leadership and good judgement moving forward.