Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has clarified misinformation in the international media about the visit by the U.S Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry and HMS Spey.
Speaking at a ceremony to welcome the visiting United States Hospital Ship USNS Mercy in Honiara, Sogavare said there had been a delay in the granting of approval for entry into the country to the U.S Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry due primarily to the appropriate information not sent to the Office of Prime Minister on time.
The Prime Minister’s Office sought and received the required information on 20 August 2022. Approval was granted for the U.S Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry to enter the country and participate in the FFA operation Island Chief event on 20 August 2022.
“Unfortunately, by the time the approval was communicated on the evening of 20 August 2022, the captain had decided to leave our waters,” PM Sogavare said.
In relation to the HMS Spey, the approval process to enter Solomon Islands was aborted when the Prime Minister’s Office received notification from the British High Commission in Honiara, that they were no longer seeking approval for HMS Spey to enter the country.
The delay in these approvals demonstrate the need for the government to review and refine its approval requirements and procedures for visiting military vessels to Solomon Islands.
“To this end we have requested our partners to give us time to review and put in place our new processes before sending further requests for military vessels to enter the country. Once the new mechanism is in place, we will inform you all. We anticipate the new process to be smoother and timelier,” Sogavare said.
The government has asked all partner countries with plans to conduct naval visits or patrols to put them on hold until a revised national mechanism is in place. These will universally apply to all visiting naval vessels.
Solomon Islands have had unfortunate experiences of foreign naval vessels entering the country’s waters during the course of the year without diplomatic clearance granted, hence would like to avoid such incidents from reoccurring.
Solomon Islands would like to see partnership in place to build national capacity to police our Exclusive Economic Zones. Once the process and procedures are in place suspension of naval vessel visits will be lifted.
The Government has communicated its position to all countries requesting to send naval ships into Solomon Islands waters.
Meanwhile, the Government and people of Solomon Islands welcomed the visit of United States Hospital Ship USNS Mercy now in Honiara.
The United States Medical team in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services will be carrying out a number of health programmes in the capital and in some provinces over the next few days.
People wanting to access health services on board the Mercy ship will have to follow the normal process of accessing healthcare services through the referral system from the clinics to the National Referral Hospital.
Acting Medical Superintendent and Head of Pediatrics Ward at the National Referral Hospital (NRH), Dr Titus Nasi made the clarification at a press conference hosted at the U.S Consular office in Honiara.
“Those who have underlying illnesses and want to get reviewed, they need to come to the HCC clinics, and if they think they need to be seen by a specialist then they can come to the national referral hospital.
“Those who know their doctors or departments they have been managed at, they can contact them and get seen by the nurses there, and then they can get referred or reviewed onboard depending on the decisions between the two teams if it’s necessary to go onboard. But it’s not open for everyone to go on board at the moment,” Dr Nasi explained.
He said NRH is working closely with the Mercy ship to ensure patients in dire need receive medical attention.
“Each department has days and times that they will work side by side with the hospital staff here on shore and on the ship. And we have been selecting patients to see if those that require treatment on board to go onboard or if we can manage them together at the hospital,” he said.
Pacific Partnership 2022 Mission Commander U.S Navy Capt. Hank Kim, said they have already received referrals from the National Referral Hospital and have also prepared for surgeries.
He also highlighted that their dental team will be visiting 21 schools in Honiara.
“We have visited a few already and I think we have done about 150 exams and in total, our current estimate is that we will see a thousand students in these schools for dental exams,” he stated.
A statement from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services informed the public that the operation of the Sea Mercy, the floating hospital, with regards to health care provision will be both on the ship and at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) from Tuesday until 09 of September and will be conducted jointly with the local medical team.
For operations and treatment on board the Sea Mercy, there have been patients admitted at NRH that were identified and have been scheduled for admission on board the vessel for specialised medical treatment and procedures.
On the other hand, a team from Sea Mercy which includes, surgeons, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Internal Medicine, paediatrics, optometrists, OT (Anaesthesia/surgical), Pharmacist, laboratories, Biomedical, Rehabilitation, Psychiatrist/mental health specialist including, Infection Control, CSSD, Nutritionist will be deployed to NRH for side by side exchanges while treating and caring for patients. Training to build the capacity of medical staff at NRH will also be conducted.