Po’oi Pōhiva clarifies late PM ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s medical treatment costs in New Zealand

    The son of late Opposition Leader and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said his father’s costs after he died in an Auckland hospital were paid by the Tongan Government.

    Siosiua Po’oi Pohiva. File photo

    He said ‘Akilisi’s medical treatment in Auckland while being the Prime Minister were also paid by the Government.

    Po’oi, who was also ‘Akilisi’s personal secretary at the time, said that was the “privilege” to which his father was entitled as Prime Minister.

    Po’oi made the clarification after we reported earlier this week that Tonga’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forests Viliami Hingano’s arrival in Auckland for medical tests has divided the online community.

    Many were shocked after they learnt the Minister’s medical conditions appeared to have reached a state where it required special assistance in New Zealand before he was elected to Parliament, but that this was not revealed to his voters.

    As we reported, Hon. Hingano was elected in the November 18 general election and was appointed to the Ministry by Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni on December 29, before apparently flying to Auckland the next day.

    His medical assistance and travel to Auckland was approved by the former government in his capacity as the governor of Ha’apai.

    Po’oi said the fact that Hingano was sent to Auckland for medical assistance before Parliament officially opened was “an issue”.

    He believed that if Hingano’s constituency had known before the election the Minister was expected to seek overseas medical assistance, they might not have voted him in.

    “He has yet to sweat over doing his job for which he was awarded his entitlement for medical treatment,” Po’oi said in Tongan.

    Medical treatment costs package

    The government’s overseas medical treatment policy covers all members of the royal family, the Prime Minister, all Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior officials and all public servants.

    Their entitlements are categorised into various groups with the royals allowed to travel overseas on medical ground with members of their family and staff. The government only pays for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers if they are sent overseas for treatment. The government can pay for their wives if they are required to take care of them. There is also a different package for chief executive officers and all civil servants which are also covered by insurance policies.

    A doctor in Tonga must approve any patient to be sent to New Zealand or Australia for medical treatment if their conditions cannot be treated in Tonga.

    Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forests Viliami Manuopangai Hingano

    The government pays for all travel costs, accommodation and the medical treatment in the overseas country. The patients are also entitled to receiving their full pay according to pay rules which are set for each category package.

    ‘Akilisi’s payments

    In our report earlier this week, we said ‘Akilisi paid for his travel and accommodation expenses. We did not mention who paid for his medical treatments.

    Since ‘Akilisi normally paid for his flight and accommodation costs we also asked Po’oi to confirm whether ‘Akilisi still paid these costs when he was last sent to Auckland hospital before he died in 2019. Po’oi has yet to respond.

    Our report on ‘Akilisi’s paying his accommodation and flight costs was based on several interviews with ‘Akilisi when he visited New Zealand for medical check-ups.

    In April 2015 we published a story titled “Prime Minister pays for family to travel with him on medical trip to Auckland”

    In that story we said: “Tonga’s Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told Kaniva News in Auckland he paid for three family members to accompany him to Auckland, where he has received medical care”.

    We reported that ‘Akilisi also paid for their stay in ‘Atalanga, the Tongan government’s residence in Epsom, Auckland”.

    We also reported that “the Tongan consul at ‘Atalanga, Stafford ‘Aho, confirmed to Kaniva News the Prime Minister paid the rent for all bookings  the consulate has made for him including the house in ‘Atalanga while he was in New Zealand”.

    In February 2018, we reported a story titled “Tonga treatment saved thousands; PM thanks Princess Mata’aho for visit”.

    In that story we reported that ‘Akilisi’s “decision to be treated in Tonga rather than New Zealand saved thousands of pa’anga of taxpayers’ money, a government spokesperson said”.

    The spokesperson “said the government would have spent more than $100,000 if it had hired a medical aircraft to fly the Prime Minister to New Zealand”.

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