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Concerned doctors believe $60m unwisely allocated

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

CoViD-19 triage area outside Vaiola Hospital, Tongatapu. Where do thousands of likely patients go from here? March 2020.

By Pesi Fonua

The allocation of $60million for an Economic and Social Stimulus Package that was announced by the Prime Minister Hon. Dr Pohiva Tu‘i‘onetoa yesterday, 2 April “was not very smart” according to concerned Vaiola Hospital doctors, considering the needs.

Do we have 30,000 hospital beds?

We should be seriously and urgently preparing for the arrival of CoViD-19.

The doctors believe government has gone completely off-track when it should be throwing all resources to prepare for a flood of patients. Because they have no doubt that when CoViD-19 hits Tonga, the Ministry of Health will need thousands of beds.

Right now, it has only a handful of beds for intensive care patients and a few small tents for triage.

The doctors who are speaking out say it is most urgent for Tonga to get our health facilities in better shape to try and cope with  CoViD-19 when it reaches Tonga

Because it will get here, sooner or later.

Tongatapu has a population of over 70,000, “If only 50% get affected, that will be more than 30,000 patients because we can't send them home once they are positive,” said a senior, highly qualified doctor.

Doctors rarely ring Matangi Tonga to complain about anything. But this one did this evening, and it shows the high level of concern among the frontline medical profession in Tonga.

No testing

Tonga needs equipment to test the specimens of suspected cases - and it hasn't got that capability yet. It was originally ordered from New Zealand, but it actually has to come from the UK.

“Most urgent for us is to have the equipment, the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the technicians, the doctors, the nurses and the accommodation in place.”

It is urgent for Tonga now to either build a new hospital or prepare existing facilities to accommodate thousands of patients, he said.

No isolation facility

Do we have 30,000 hospital beds? The answer, of course, is no.

Apparently, there has been a proposal to use boarding schools’ facilities, Tupou College, for example.

However, the final decision is to use the hospital at Mu’a, though it is regarded by many doctors as unsuitable as it is small and is very far away from Vaiola and the specialist radiology facility and laboratory.

Across the road

So if that is the case, then what about looking across the road from Vaiola Hospital?

Right there, close to Vaiola, is a complex of government buildings, currently being occupied by the Legislative Assembly.

It already has good facilities.


The concern by the Vaiola Hospital doctors is shared by some Dongans in the diaspora. It would be interesting to know who the formulators of the "Economic and Social Stimulus Package are and the details of the "Package." It seems from your article that those who are charged with the responsibility for taking care of the infected and affected when the numbers increase, were not included in the discussion to formulate the policy and cost the "Package'". Where is the $60million to fund the package going to come from?