The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forests, Viliami Hingano is currently in New Zealand for medical tests after the Vaiola hospital’s computerised tomography (CT) scanner stopped working, a government spokesperson has told Kaniva News.
The former government approved his travel last year in his capacity as the Ha’apai governor, he said.
The Minister’s flight to New Zealand was repeatedly postponed by Tonga’s current volcanic eruptions which started in December last year.
“It was important for him to be taken overseas and get his scan done so that his condition could be identified before he was given the right medical treatment,” the spokesperson said in Tongan.
The spokesperson was responding after Kaniva News wanted to confirm that the Minister was in Auckland for medical treatment.
We reported this week that Hingano’s family had sent him love and supports after a photo of him and a cousin was shared to Facebook last week.
The family urged Hingano to be courageous and prayed that God would help him through the doctors here in New Zealand.
The former governor of Ha’apai was elected as MP for Ha’apai 12 on November 18, and appointed by Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni on December 29, before he left for Auckland.
Medical issues divide community
Our report earlier this week about Hingano has divided the Tongan online community.
Some were surprised to find out that instead of the Minister being expected to meet his staff as the first thing he should do after his appointment he was sent overseas for medical assistance.
Some criticised the Prime Minister for appointing someone who appeared to be a burden on taxpayers.
Some stood by the fact the Minister’s travel and all costs incurred by his medical needs must be paid by the government because it was his ministerial entitlement.
Others believed it was time to review the overseas medical treatment policy. Many suggested that all candidates who ran for Parliament must show evidence they were healthy and did not suffer from any chronic disease that would be a financial burden for the country.
Some raised the fact that the policy only applied to government senior officers, leaders and the royals. Commoners who become chronically ill can only be treated in Tonga with the limited medical resources and doctors available at the Vaiola hospital.
History of treatment
Most of the public servants, politicians and the royals who have been sent overseas on medical grounds suffered from conditions that were serious and could not be treated in Tonga.
While many were fortunate to be cured in New Zealand or Australia and returned home, some did not.
Two recent former Deputy Prime Ministers Lord Ma’afu and Sione Vuna Fā’otusia were treated in New Zealand, but eventually died from their sicknesses.
A fierce online furore erupted in 2019 after the government hired an air ambulance which airlifted Lord Fusitu’a to a hospital in New Zealand.
At the time, those who opposed the overseas medical policy protested on Facebook, rejecting the payment of costs from taxpayers’ money.
The king’s noble was still in New Zealand and it appeared that he was still receiving medical assistance for his illness.
Former MPs medical expenses
Former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakanō was regularly sent to New Zealand for checkups after he suffered a minor stroke while in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly in 2013.
His medical expenses and flights were paid from taxpayers’ money.
The government also sent former Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’ionetoa to Australia for medical treatment after having an injury while being an MP. He received spinal surgery at the St George Private Hospital in Sydney.
Kaniva News understands a former Prime Minister, who was wheelchair-bound, died after being sick and spending about a year or more in an Auckland hospital. While he was in New Zealand all his expenses, including the staff looking after him, were paid from taxpayers’ money.
A former Minister of Police was flown to New Zealand on a medical flight while he was seriously ill, but died during the flight. All expenses were paid from the taxpayers’ coffers.
Late Opposition Leader and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva was also sent to Auckland for medical treatment a couple of times during his tenure. He later died in an Auckland hospital.
However, he paid for his travel and accommodation expenses in New Zealand with his own money.
FAKAMATALA NOUNOU FAKATONGA
‘Oku lolotonga ‘i Nu’u Sila ‘a e Minisitā Ngoue’ hili ia hano tali ke fakafolau fakafalemahaki mai ‘e he pule’anga ‘o Tu’i’onetoa’ makatu’unga he totonu fakapa’anga mo vāhenga ne ma’u ‘e Viliami Manuopangai Hingano tu’unga ‘i hono lakanga ko Kōvana Ha’apai’. Na’e tautoloi ‘ene folau mai’ tu’unga he puna ‘a e mo’ungaafi ‘i Tonga’ ‘o ne uesia ‘a e fefolau’aki fakavaha’apule’anga’. Pehē mei he pule’anga’ ‘o Sovaleni’ ‘oku lolotonga maumau ‘a e mīsini sikena CT ‘a Vaiola ‘oku’ ne fai ‘a hono faka’ata kakato ‘o e sino’ ke ‘ilo ai ha alangamahaki ke faito’o. Ko e tupu’anga ia e folau mai ‘a Hingano’ ke faka’ata ‘i Nu’u Sila’ ni kae lava ke fakapapau’i ‘a e faito’o totonu ke fai kiate ia.