"I do not know whether I will be in this place short or long term, that is for others to decide, but I do know is that I have no intention of being here for the sake of being here."; in April 2015 the FijiFirst parliamentarian, Dr Neil Sharma, resigned from Parliament
By Dr Neil Sharma
Bakshi Street Medical Center, Suva, Fiji,
5 September 2017
It is a great honor and privilege that I am here today, much like my father the Late Hon. C.P Sharma, N.F.P. Parliamentarian 1977. C.P as he was known among his peers, stood tall on civil rights in Colonial times. As a medical student at Otago University, New Zealand without regular funds, he gravitated to economics and accountancy with part time manual work. He was deported for student socialism leadership when an expatriate police officer on vacation from Fiji, spotted the brown skinned lad on a University socialist platform. Indeed a threat to the evolving politics in colonial Fiji.
ln the early 40's he sailed as a cabin hand on a sugar boat bound for London, returning to work in the civil service to the great dismay of our colonial masters. Serving the Treasury as Chief Accountant, Unionist and President of Fiji Public Service Association in its hey days, First Local Manager of the National Bank of Fiji leaving his footprints in the Public Service Credit Union and forerunner of the Fiji National Provident Fund. Dad capped his short political career as a NFP Parliamentarian in 1977 as the choice candidate for Suva Rural and Navua, trouncing Sir Vijay R Singh and Hon Vijaya Parmanandam. Disheartened at the Dove-Flower divide he did not seek re-election.
I am a product of the multiracial Holy Trinity Primary School and Marist Brothers High School. My mother was a staunch school mistress and encouraged all her three children into the study of medicine however life had its own destiny. Armed with a degree in Medicine I returned home in January 1977 ,soon enough directly into the arena of reproductive health, in its evolving spheres over a 32 year period, both in the public and private sectors.
ln the Maternity ward at CWM hospital, I met my future bride, Nurse Nirmala. She has been a faithful pillar. She practically managed the domestic front, rearing three lovely children as I was riding the tide through to postgraduate certificate, diploma, membership and a fellowship. To her credit today we have an aviation Captain Navneet Sharma, Army Major/Lawyer Navneel Sharma with the Fiji Military Legal unit, currently in South Sudan with the UN forces. Our last born and only daughter, Nashika Sharma is a fourth year medical student. We have two grandchildren: Neil Jnr (3) and Nevahn (1).
I have been part of the Bainimarama Cabinet from January 2009.The last five years and nine months has been most challenging. The Healthcare reform process was set in motion with modernization of all relevant archaic laws and addition of necessary ones (now totaling 23). The need to develop a Health Policy, Planning and Budget Analysis unit with an inbuilt Monitoring and Evaluation Unit just did not take place without resistance. Establishing the recipe to right size Human Resource Health (HRH) was painstakingly slow but is work completed. The need to right size and adequately re-distribute pharmaceuticals and medical supplies has been largely complete.
"'The White paper document on proposed Fijian Health 2015-2030 outlines all those reform measures undertaken in the last six years and the need for oversight. This document provides alignment footprints to the global post development agenda 2015-2030 based on continuing strategic governance, leadership in health using evidence based approaches to decision making, planning, policy formulation for best outcomes for all Fijians. I trust the incoming ministers will carry the formulations on the current and possibly on an enhanced trajectory.
Unfortunately, clinical service delivery is adversely affected by politics in the civil service. People detest change and raise barriers, stall progress and effect reversals despite nods of approvals at face value. When "Root Cause Analyzed", patient-complaints originate from poor communication of service processes, lack of vision, planning and poor execution of policy by the executive arms in governance. With the 2013 Constitution enshrined Secular State; meritocracy where work and life values will supersede race, religion, class and creed will pave the way to a just society.
Medical personnel are trained in one to one communication and the election trail was a great leap into the depths, personally. Whilst on the podium even after serving as Vice Chair in Geneva (World Health Assembly-2014) addressing 194 National State Ministers of Health or for that matter becoming Inaugural and Interim Chairperson of Civil Registration,Vital Statistic (UNESCAP-2013) seem daunting to others but let me put on record that electioneering was a totally new ball game.
The micro picture of healthcare, the bread and butter issues of a place to stay and call home, water and electricity availability and road access had great commonality throughout the nation. New and innovative reform measures are essential if the citizenry is to be satisfied before the next election in 2018.
I acknowledge my campaign managers, Arun Sewak, Hasmat Ali, Phillip Arun Singh, Faiaz, Kasi Ram, Elizabeth Dass, Mahendra Singh, Kitione Tukana, Alifereti, Harendra Prasad, Pradeep Sewak and Vijendra Sharma for their commitment to a just cause. To my unnamed back office manager a big thanks: To the supporters who helped i will not forget and serve you faithfully.
My parliamentary contribution is largely geared in the social domain. Education, Health, Social Services and oversight will be areas my eyes remain focused on" Education and Health underpin Socio-Economic and National Development. Both remain tools for social justice and serve long term national development needs. Specifically, Health Reform needs momentum and direction. Much of the infrastructure, human resource, technology upgrade is just about in place. The executive arm of government needs to address the triple burden of disease nationally- that of Communicable, Non Communicable and Re-emergent Diseases.
The special needs of mental health care, cancer and diabetes cannot be treated as business as usual, needing international alignments. "Universal Health Coverage" needs the greatest injection of innovation in Fiji, as the Post Development Agenda 2015 replacement of the Millennium Development Goals concludes in 2015. As a sequel to the Social Health insurance (WHO-2013 Fiji study) Health Coverage and Health insurance are issues for public stakeholder discussion. I remain a silent admirer of President Obama who was elected in 2009 when I joined the Bainimarama Government. Obama-care provided the "Affordable Care Act -2010: implementation 2014-2022. Individual, Employer and Health insurance Providers have obligations to the provision of additional benefits, rights and protection to common citizenry.
Open enrollment providing essential minimal health coverage is not available in the public health system in USA. With a sizable, stable private health sector, an appropriate agency to control transactions like Fiji National Provident Fund establishment and Private Health Insurance Companies, all stakeholder's need to address this under a universal health coverage scheme if the government and other stakeholders want health to make positive head way and contain escalating costs.
I do not know whether I will be in this place short or long term, that is for others to decide, but I do know is that I have no intention of being here for the sake of being here.
Together with my colleagues it is my intention ts make a difference.
Thank You Honorable Speaker.
Dr. Neil Sharma. MP.