And I hope you weren’t on April Fool’s Day – there are lots of fools in our community without ourselves being added to the list, but I guess that’s another story. More after September. Anyway – mabuhai hay from Manila! My dreams of medical tourism 11 years ago were not dreams but a reality and I am experiencing it first hand here in the Phillipines. In 2007 when I was the then Minister of Tourism, I touted medical tourism for Fiji with some of our own doctors practicing successfully overseas visiting me and looking at this concept of medical treatment in our own island paradise. This didn’t go down well and up till now still hasn’t, for many reasons; the main one being the costs – of travel, treatment and living here during recuperation in Fiji. Having paid quite an exhorbitant sum for medical treatment over the Christmas and New Year periods in Suva, I found out about the St Luke’s Medical Centre in Global City Taguig Manila from my dear friend Judith Ragg. Wasting no time I googled the centre and its facilities and booked myself in – with the blessings of my own doctor. I am about to undergo an Executive Golden Age Screening Test for females over 50 years of age which will include a complete blood count (CBC), Creatinine, Potassium, sodium and uric acid tests, lipid profile, fasting bold sugar, thyroid stimulating hormone test, treadmill exercise test, ultrasound of liver and gallbladder, kidneys and bladder, urinalysis and random urine microalbumin – creatinine test, chest X ray, ophthalmologic examination (visualacuity, fundoscopy + fundus photo, pure tone audiometry and one thing I am not looking forward to, nutritional counselling and body fat analysis – yikes, big fail! I will also have my one density determined and my wonky knees looked at as extra add on tests. All this will be done in one day and my results given to me later the next day. All under one roof and my accommodation on the same floor in the hospital hotel facility. Accompanied by my favorite traveling companion, my precious daughter, we were picked up at the airport and will be dropped off when we depart – no extra charge but part of the service of being an international patient. The hotel rooms are high end private hospital rooms that are used in case of an overflow of patients although there are more than 16 floors of this magnificent facility and the executive screening is on the same floor as our bedroom. We will attend Palm Sunday mass and daily mass at the chapel on the 5th floor and our meals are taken downstairs behind the ‘resort like’ entrance of the reception area where there are a mixture of local food eateries - magnificent salads, soups and sandwiches, haute cuisine and even Starbucks. St Luke’s has its own bank in the hospital, pharmacy and an hourly shuttle to take you to the local mall in Global City - Market! Market! which boasts 592 shops and restaurants. Metro Manila is at your doorstep but we prefer to wander near the hospital as my medicals are why we came here. St Luke’s was first set up by the American Protestant church but is now a not for profit hospital. Nearing 67 years of age I no longer have health insurance and the above facilities were very attractive to me so with my daughter’s and all my brothers’ encouragement, and being adventurous, we took this trip. All the above mentioned facilities and our return airfares dear reader, cost just a little under what I paid for a day and a procedure at our local private health facility in Suva – for the two of us! God is so good. I seem to be recalling my time as a government minister in days gone by but it seems recommendations I made all those years ago are coming to fruition or I am seeing the reality of it all as in St Luke’s. One recommendation I made as a parliamentarian as well as a minister was for a private insurance scheme for low paid workers or for a certain amount of our wages, as in our FNPF, be deducted each pay – say 50 cents per wage packet per person, to be set aside for totally free medical care including medicines. I questioned a general meeting of insurance brokers during an employers’ session about such an insurance scheme almost two years ago and was told ‘they are working on it!’ Now, great news, FijiCare has introduced the Bundled Microinsurance for sugar cane farmers, house girls, shop assistants, housewives – in fact anyone who can afford a $52 yearly premium. Why do I mention the sugar cane farmers? All farmers who are registered with the Sugar Cane Growers Fund (SCGF) for the insurance scheme and have a named beneficiary are automatically covered under the facility. This is an excellent scheme for housegirls/assistants but they must be registered under a group like a registered NGO or association and there must be at least 50 per group – as you can imagine the paperwork! The cover is for Life and funeral expenses – maxiumum age of 65, personal accident and fire on main dwelling. Naturally the insurance cover is fixed and cannot be amended on a case by case basis but all these questions are answered very clearly in FijiCare’s Frequently Asked Question brochure which you can pick up at any Fiji Care office. With all the ‘oga’ we are burdened with so often in Fiji, it is worth your while to look into this scheme. VinakaFijiCare for thinking of the people of Fiji. Have a great month – another reminder that the IWA May Ball will be held next month on the 5 May – hope you have a ticket for this wonderful event, fundraising for the betterment of life for the women and children of Fiji. Look up the IWA website and see the work being done in the past by their fundraising efforts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised – and all done with dignity and respect. PaxVitia.
Mrs BERNADETTE ROUNDS GANILAU is a former radio personality and Member of Parliament. Now retired, she continues with her NGO work and runs her own business.