Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
Fiji’s embrace of digital technology has changed our lives in ways few once imagined. More areas of Fiji are covered by mobile broadband services than ever, and the rates have never been more affordable. More Government services are online. More Fijians are making online payments and even starting digitally-driven businesses. As I speak, we’re all being broadcast live to viewers on Facebook. And these days, I’d bet some of you can’t imagine going 24 hours without your smartphones. Very little, if any, of that was happening a decade ago.
Today, that foundation of nationwide connectivity is transforming how our healthcare professionals treat patients, as we rollout 22 new portable, digital x-ray machines in health facilities across Fiji, including in some of the most remote rural and maritime pockets of the country.
The single greatest advantage of these new machines is the rate at which they operate. We’re cutting a 20-minute traditional x-ray process down to about five seconds. When you’re awaiting treatment that could save your life or spare you a great deal of pain, every second matters.
We’ve just endured the painful impact of Cyclone Yasa. With this equipment at the ready in the aftermath of future storms, a rapid on-site digital x-ray of an injured Fijian could mean the difference between life and death. That is what this advancement means for our people: Suffering that will be spared, and lives that will be saved.
The digital x-ray process is not only faster, it delivers better care. The images it captures can be quickly and securely shared across our national healthcare network – which is critical for the diagnosis of certain conditions. And it creates an accurate digital record that informs better treatment, anywhere in Fiji that treatment is sought.
Up until now, only four hospitals in Fiji have been using digital x-ray machines. With this 4.3-Million-Dollar handover of these 22 machines, that network of digitised patient information is nationwide. Rather than limit the availability of this technology to the hospitals in our urban centres, these digital machines will reach every division in the country. Why? Because every Fijian deserves access to the best possible medical treatment and equipment we can afford to provide. That’s not only my opinion, it is the mandate of the Fijian Constitution.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this investment arrives in the midst of the greatest health challenge humanity has faced in 100 years: the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike so much of the rest of the world, we in Fiji are safe from the coronavirus. We stopped our outbreak in its tracks – and today marks day number 284 since we’ve recorded a local case of the virus.
We didn’t secure our COVID-Contained status as a country by blindly pretending this pandemic could never reach us. For months, we watched carefully as the crisis grew from a distant epidemic to a global pandemic. For months, we prepared for the inevitably of the virus arriving at our shores.
When it did, we acted decisively in line with the best medical evidence available. Our record since speaks for itself.
Now, the world is preparing for the next phase of its pandemic response. Again, we are watching carefully. As viable vaccines have become available, wealthier nations aren’t wasting time getting jabs in arms as quickly as they can. Those governments are clear-eyed about the stakes of immunising their populations. So are we.
Fijians cannot afford to find ourselves at the back of the global queue when it comes to protecting ourselves from COVID-19.
If countries like ours lose out to vaccine nationalism, we’ll be swept to the margins of the world’s recovery where we’ll be left more vulnerable than ever. The science behind these vaccines is clear, they will not succeed if they only reach the arms of the rich. This is a global crisis. So long as any nation of any size remains vulnerable to an outbreak, we are all vulnerable. And we look forward to working closely with all of our development partners, as well as the pharmaceutical companies, to see that Fijians are immunised from this virus as soon and safely as possible. Not after the developed world, but alongside the citizens of wealthier nations.
That is how we keep our people safe. That is how we keep our economy apace with the global recovery.
Our work to secure effective vaccines quickly, equitably, and affordably is top priority for my Government. After which our focus will shift to administration, in what will easily be the most complex logistical endeavour Fiji has ever undertaken. But we are ready. We must be ready, because we know it will be well-worth the effort – I trust our friends around the world know it as well and show it with their support.
As we gear up for that next phase, investments like these new machines help ensure the quality of care we deliver is always improving and becoming more efficient. Despite the once-in-a-century challenge of this pandemic, our healthcare system isn’t bending and isn’t breaking. Instead, it is becoming stronger, more resilient, and more capable than ever of caring for our people. And whatever the future holds, the Fijian people can trust, above all else, that their health and well-being will always come first.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.