The Fiji National University’s (FNU) College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS) through a partnership with the St. Vincent’s Pacific Health Fund received a grant of $10,000 (AUD). With the first tranche of funding, CMNHS donated telehealth equipment to the country’s only psychiatric institution, the Saint Giles Hospital yesterday. 

The equipment handover marks the launch of the Fiji Mental Health Telehealth initiative, a project to catalyse better engagement with remote and rural health services in providing essential mental health services to communities which are deprived due to geographical barrier. 

While handing over the equipment, CMNHS Dean Dr William May highlighted the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) call for a need for substantial investment to avert future mental health crisis. 

“The COVID 19 pandemic has brought about a new normal in daily living as well as the delivery of the health in particular mental health care needed to be altered and scaled up urgently as the world prepares for the next pandemic of increased mental health issues,” said Dr May.

 Considering the curfews and social distancing measures currently in place, the College Dean added the Telehealth initiatives are necessary to Fiji in ensuring that services are continued to be delivered. 

“It also provides an opportunity to remodel and restructure mental health services from the new normal perspective.” 

The initial tranche of funding was able to purchase approximately $4,000 (AUD) worth of equipment which comprises an electronic screen, conference calling equipment including camera, microphones and speakers, recharge cards, pocket wifis, webcams, headsets and zoom links will be used by FNU clinical faculty and the Saint Giles Hospital staff to liaise with its counterparts at the divisional level to discuss patient care and management. It will also enable staff and students to engage in online learning activities. 

Dr May informed this will also greatly assist the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to decentralise its services and utilise a virtual hospital from a mental health perspective. “The telehealth project equipment will also enable the School of Medical Sciences at FNU to liaise with colleagues in other universities to ensure it can reach patients and have an educational opportunity with the counterparts during this new normal period and beyond,” the CMNHS Dean mentioned. Saint Giles Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Kiran Gaikwad acknowledged the support from the Fiji National University in assisting with the mental health care of the patients. “I thank FNU for its continued support and leading this initiative which will greatly assist us to focus more on community services.” said Dr Gaikwad. As part of the project, the FNU’s Counselling unit under the Office of the Registrar, SMS clinical faculty and students, as well the staff of Saint Giles hospital have engaged in weekly online mental health sessions which also involved regional mental health professionals from other Pacific Islands.

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