Ministry fears “hateful comments” could discourage “best doctors” from practising in Vavaʻu

    Tonga’s Ministry of Health said hateful comments and personal attacks on social media against its doctors in Vavaʻu could force some of the best doctors in Tonga to relocate their practices elsewhere.

    The Ministry was responding after complaints surfaced on social media claiming the Vavaʻu Doctor Superintendent mistreated patients.

    A spokesperson for the Ministry has invited complainants to lodge their grievances against healthcare professionals or services directly with the Minister’s office, the director’s office, or with the office of the Ombudsman and Public Relations.

    “Complaints made on social media by a few concerned members of the public could not be dealt with appropriately because they are not the right place if you want the problems to be sorted out with the right people”, the spokesperson said.

    Last week a person by the name Lolohea criticised the Vavaʻu Health Superintendent, Dr. Sione Lee Taione on Facebook.  The claim stated that some elderly diabetic patients were reluctant to attend treatments at the hospital because Dr. Taione publicly berated them in front of other hospital visitors.

    “You do not have ‘respect’ for these patients who are just like your mother or your grannies”, Lolohea wrote in Tongan regarding Dr. Taione.

    Lolohea said he believed some of the diabetic patients died because they refused to go to the hospital to get treatment out of fear that Dr. Taione would verbally abuse them again.

    “Doctors should speak respectfully to the patients like in foreign countries you feel at home when you go to your doctors because they are ‘humble’ and talk nicely”.

    “I am disappointed because you are still young but have treated our elderly badly”, Lolohea said.

    Some supporters of Lolohea voiced their opinions that the doctor should have been physically abused in order to keep his allegedly inflated ego in check.

    The post was shared by many Facebook groups and pages which have gained more than 10,000 likes.

    On one Facebook page, Pacific Island Tourism, which have 10,896 “likes”, the posts received 14 shares and 112 comments.

    Some commenters criticised Lolohea’s post and said he was exaggerating the situation.
    “Our kainga from Vava’u are faultfinders and we sometimes regard the way of trying to explain things clearly as disrespectful”, one commenter wrote in Tongan.

    He claimed to have been present when the doctor was talking to the patients about their diabetes treatments.

    “What I gathered was that the doctor told the diabetics their medication has to be taken according to the instructions and then come to the hospital when the medication runs out. Some diabetics did not take the medication causing them immediate problems. That’s when they turn up to the hospital”, he said.

    The spokesperson from the Ministry said the Minister and the Director’s offices were open five days a week for the public to lodge complaints or voice their concerns.

    He invited the public to come forward so that their problems could be dealt with appropriately with the right people at the right place, he said.

    He said the doctors in Vava’u were some of the top academic students at high schools before going overseas for further studies.

    “One of them was dux at Tonga High School in 2007. One was dux of Tonga College in 2006 and the other was dux of Vava’u High School in 2002”, he said.

    “I think the people of Vava’u should be happy and make use of the opportunity of having some of  the best doctors we have in Tonga to help the Vava’uans”.

    “They are not local trained medical officers. These are the doctors that had been trained in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia”, the spokesman said.

    “The personal attacks and hateful comments on social media could make it difficult for any doctors to go and work in Vava’u”, he said.

    “Or the Vava’uans would like to shift the doctors to Ha’apai or ‘Eua and replace them with the local trained medical officers”, the spokesperson added.

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