Response to Fiji Medical and Dental Secretariat

30/05/2016 14:41

At the Outset the Council wishes to clarify that there is no misconception from the Consumer Council of Fiji.

In his press statement (30th May 2014), the CEO of Fiji Medical and Dental Secretariat (FMDS) has made several statements which questions his integrity.

  • The Council is very knowledgeable about the health sector and how it works from the experiences of users of health & medical services. The complaints lodged at the Council deal with goods and services purchased by consumers in exchange of money. This also includes health services which obviously relates to human lives. We receive complaints on health issues even when money is not involved e.g. public hospitals. The Council strongly believes that there is no distinction between a patient and a consumer. A patient pays money for services provided by medical and dental practitioners. Even in the public health system there are certain user-pay services. Patients have invested their hard-earned money on health insurance. Some who cannot afford premiums rely on their own personal savings or on their relatives, etc. The Council would then like the FMDS to provide a distinction between a patient and a consumer.
  •  It is to be noted that the Council does not expect the FMDS to sit on complaints for more than three years. FMDS is the last institution which should talk about “competency standard” and “quality”. If they were competent, the complaints would not be sitting with the Secretariat for three years. It is not always about “closing files”. It is about patients who have suffered losses – physical and monetary, not forgetting huge emotional stress – due to the incompetence of certain medical/dental practitioners.
  • If consumers are required to institute legal proceedings than what is the point of having a Fiji Medical and Dental Secretariat? Complainants’ priority is to get redress. It appears the FMDS is more “process oriented” rather than “result oriented”. Whilst we understand that the FMDS cannot award monetary compensations to the complainants, it could actually resolve the complaints by disciplining the medical and dental practitioners in order to protect the health and safety of the public at large. A dental and medical practitioner who is not disciplined for their misconduct will have their business as usual putting people’s life at risk. We have a case of an unregistered dentist operating from a registered dentist premises where no adequate step has been taken by the FMDS.
  • The Council on several occasions approached the FMDS with concerns and a meeting was requested by the Council which was attended by the CEO of FMDS and National Oral Health Advisor on 22 August 2013 to discuss consumer complaints and poor service delivery by the Secretariat. At this meeting, the Council was made aware of the Dental Professional Conducts Committee comprised of public dentists and not the Dental Practitioners from the private sector. One can now gauge the credibility of FMDS where they are claiming that their approaches to the Council for discussions were rebuffed. The Council also nominated two of its staff to be on the Dental and Medical Professional Conduct Committees in January 2014 but no meeting was called by FMDS till to date. This certainly goes to show how credible the FMDS is.
  • With regards to the functions of the FMDS, the Council would like to remind Mr. Prasad that the Council has been fully engaged with the Ministry of Health in the drafting of this legislation and fully comprehends the functions of the Secretariat.
  • FMDS does not have to operate to Council’s or anyone’s liking but to the consumers’ expectation and for the very reasons stipulated in the Decree to realise the purpose of this institution. FMDS was established to protect the health and safety of the public in relation to the practice of medicine and dentistry and it should do just that.
  •  The Council questions the transparency of the FMDS. Are they really transparent in the manner they are operating? This is due to the fact that the FMDS was not willing to reveal the names of the members that make up the Medical and Dental Councils despite numerous requests by the Council. One can imagine how long FMDS will take in its investigation when it took weeks to reveal the names of the members of the two Councils. Why is the public kept in the dark when it comes to disciplining the Medical and Dental Practitioners unlike the Independent Legal Services Commission which provides timely information on the disciplinary actions taken against Legal Practitioners? This is how institutions set up by the government should operate. The Council had met and discussed the issues with FMDS which remains futile.

Finally from the evidences attached one can see the honesty with which this FMDS is operating. I only feel sorry for the aggrieved complainants who are being given a run around.