New Navua Hospital health scare

Ministry of Health officials are scrambling to address a fault in the sewer outlet of the new hospital in Navua in order to avert a major health crisis.

Residents near the hospital at Namelimeli on the Queens Highway say the fault has seen raw sewerage being redirected to discharge into a creek nearby, which is a key source of bathing and food for more than 300 villagers in the area.

When a team from this magazine visited the hospital, it observed liquid waste flowing out of the hospital’s septic tank onto a concrete drain that discharges into the creek, some 20 metres away.

Beside the septic tank is a house, which is securely locked that local residents say houses the waste reticulation plant. The machine has been defective for ages, they say.

Nearby residents say they first noticed sewer in the creek about a month ago, and alerted hospital officials. They said Ministry of Health environmental health officers visited the defective plant last month but did nothing.

In the absence of an official warning, the three villages that use the creek, namely Namelimeli, Nabau and Naveivatuloa have warned villagers to stay clear from using the creek for bathing or fishing.

Questions sent to the Ministry of Health about the health scare last Monday have still not been answered. However a resident near the hospital told Islands Business today that health officials were at the hospital on the Monday afternoon, which is the day the magazine sent their questions to the Ministry.

Officials were again dispatched to Navua Hospital yesterday and they reportedly took samples of the water in the creek with them to their headquarters in Suva. Residents say the headman of Namelimeli village has announced that health officials would be in the village this evening for a meeting, and they do not know what the purpose of the meeting was.

In our questions sent to the Ministry of Health’s media office last Monday, we asked the following questions:

  1. What remedial action has been taken by the Ministry with regard to the leakage of raw sewer of the hospital to the river nearby?
  2. Can the Ministry confirms that the leakage is harmless and residents living nearby including the villages of Namelimeli and Navatuloa can still swim and fish from the river?
  3. Is the Ministry conducting some awareness exercises on the health effects of the sewer discharge?
  4. We are told that this is one of a few construction issues at the new hospital. First there was the issue of toilet blockage because the wrong toilet design was used, and as was raised in parliament, the hospital’s kitchen could not be used either and meals have to be prepared for some time at the old hospital kitchen. Can the Ministry advise as to whether all these construction issues have been resolved, and if they have been, what was the cost of repairs, who did the repairs and who paid for it?
  5. What are the lessons learnt from getting a foreign company to build infrastructure for the Ministry?