quarta-feira, 27 de agosto de 2014

East Timor Government’s health care crisis


COMMENT By Ted McDonnell - Ted McDonnell

ANYONE who watched the recent ABC Foreign Correspondent story on the dismal plight of East Timor's health care system would have instantly blamed the Australian government for decreasing AusAid to just over $96 million in the 2014/15 year. The truth is the ABC report, that attempts to blame the Australian government, is highly misleading as the fault lies squarely at the feet of the floundering East Timorese government.

Here’s a reality check. Most AusAid goes in wages and consultant fees or very often disappears through the cracks of graft and corruption.

Worthy as it was for praise, Foreign Correspondent failed to ask many basic journalistic questions with the big one being what is the East Timorese government doing for its peoples health care?

The answer is very simple: The East Timor government, despite its $15 billion Petroleum Fund, is doing very little. In fact, when PM Xanana Gusmao recently had a headache he was evacuated to Indonesia; just like former justice minister and now full-time criminal Lucia Lobato who was shipped out of prison in East Timor and offshore for her ailments.

Australians are somewhat naive when it comes to matters of Australia’s foreign aid. If it is on the ABC, surely, it must be true… Not quite...

A leaked report into the condition of the East Timor’s major hospital, Hospital National Guido Valadares, in central Dili, reflects the overall condition of the country's health care system - dismal at best; virtually non-existent at worst.

The findings of an investigative team found that senior management levels were very low; middle management had little to no education and support staff was non existent at all management levels requiring NGOs to step in as a constant backup system.

The report also found that over three daily shifts staff allocations were not based on work load but on a ‘one size fits all approach' with no proper allocations of work skills. Doctor and nurse ratios to patients do not exist.

“Managers remain in offices, wards are led unattended, wards are “incredibly dirty" and as many as 35 visitors are found sleeping on the floor of patients rooms on any given night.

The report also found staff were too busy watching TV or sleeping to attend patients needs. Alarmingly, hygiene and infection prevention is non existent at Guido Valadares.

“We found a very critical situation in HNGV. Major breaches to most elementary hygienic and infection prevention rules are a daily issue.”

Some of the major issues found in East Timor’s major hospital include blood on floors and walls; dirty utensils left in wards; and excrement on bedding.

The report found that nothing has changed since 2006.

But, like many other issues facing the people of East Timor, the Gusmao government is paying very little attention. The report on the National Hospital, which was completed in April this year, has not been acted upon. 

One European doctor working in East Timor told me that the lack of medicines and proper procedures is "killing people on a daily basis. This has nothing to do with the Australian government or any other government except the East Timor government which is doing nothing except killing their people."

It’s little wonder the political elite and their comrades flee East Timor at the first sign of a headache. Outside the country’s major hospital, the health care system in East Timor is woeful most people cannot afford to go to private clinics. Every week people die due to illnesses that are curable in neighbouring countries.

Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid pumped into East Timor over the past decade health care, poverty, hunger, malnutrition and unemployment all remain at third world levels.

One must ask where has all the aid gone? Into consultants, public servants and politicians pockets to build fancy beachside homes or shipped offshore to families?

As much as the ABC would like Australians to think the Australian government is letting down the people of East Timor such is not the case; the people of East Timor are being betrayed constantly by its own government, who these days spend much of its time cow towing for its former masters Indonesia and Portugal. Just this month, Xanana Gusmao recently donated over $4USD million of government funds to Guinea Bassau to pay for public servants wages. What incredibly strange priorities!

Only recently, the Gusmao government, and most of the highly paid political puppeteers, including those poorly advising the President, spent their time, and millions of dollars, fawning over their former colonial masters, Portugal, during a major conference involving half a dozen Portuguese speaking countries, many of whom have human rights and poverty issues that rival East Timor.

The sad fact is Portugal, whose economy teeters on the brink of bankruptcy once again, gives its former colony little - apart from a fair degree of lip service. Oh, and of course many Portuguese are now taking jobs away from the East Timorese. Portuguese consultants are being shipped into East Timor by the barrel load - otherwise they’d remain unemployed in Portugal.

The same can be said for neighbouring Indonesia, another former master of East Timor. Local businessmen are being shoved aside as Indonesians attempt to dominate trade and business in East Timor. A bribe or two doesn't go astray.

Australia remains one of the largest donors to East Timor’s welfare at just under $100 million, and that does not include the millions of dollars raised every year through private charity work by hardworking Aussies.

Maybe the report on Guido Valadares would make good bedtime reading for Xanana and his children… in Portuguese, of course. If so, the report is attached.

© Ted McDonnell 2014

*Guido Valadares Report at this link: http://.../hngv-audit.pdf

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