The Tonga Medical Association recently held its 75th annual conference. The conference took place at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre in the Kingdom’s capital of Nuku’alofa during 7-10th November, 2017. Her Royal Highness, Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita, the patron of the Association officially opened the Conference.
The event was of special significance as it commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Society, an important milestone in the life of the organization. The theme of the conference was “Honouring the Past, Treasuring the Present, and Shaping the Future: Innovations & Strategies for Success”. The theme was selected to acknowledge the major achievements of the Society and to continue honouring its noble profession in shaping the health landscape in Tonga. It was a time to reflect on the development of the medical profession in Tonga; to acknowledge the contribution made by medical pioneers in steering the course of medicine to where it is today; to celebrate our collective efforts and successes; to strengthen our health systems and finding effective ways for improved health outcomes for the people of Tonga.
More than 150 health professionals attended including Tongans who have migrated overseas. Delegates consisted of local doctors, Tongan doctors working overseas in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji; and representatives from regional organizations including the Pacific Community, Pasifika Medical Association and the World Health Organization (Fiji).
Dr Ma’ake Tupou as the Head of O & G Unit at the Ministry of Health made a presentation on “Diabetes in Pregnancy – the Tonga Experience”. Pregnancy is an opportunity to deliver interventions that can shape the future of women and families. He highlighted the importance of optimizing maternal health throughout the life course – from preconception and throughout pregnancy. This underlined the need for multisectoral approaches engaging communities, public health teams and clinicians. Effective family planning has a role to play in improving maternal health. Early booking should be encouraged. Establishing universal screening for diabetes in Tonga is well underway and a project for improved gestational diabetes care in Tonga has been approved by the World Diabetes Federation. This project will engage more interventions and other opportunities for improved health outcomes – working on optimizing the existing health system and expanding services in rural health facilities to decentralize health care.
What messages emanated from the conference
The Tonga Medical Association has indeed contributed significantly to the development of the Ministry of Health by building the professional network of doctors and enhancing their professional development. The discussions concluded that collaborations and effective partnership with other stakeholders are necessary to make rapid progress in health. Many interventions are outside of the health profession and there is a need for multi-sectoral approaches with effective coordination, management and good governance for transparency and accountability. While Tonga has made excellent progress in achieving good health outcomes and a strong workforce in the Pacific, the conditions of employment including remuneration remain an issue among health professionals.
The key resolutions from the Conference included:
- That Tonga Medical Association committee should guide and support the implementation of specific recommendations identified during the conference.
- That Tonga Medical Association in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to review human resources strategies to improve health workforce development, including retention of doctors.
- That Tonga Medical Association optimizes the health information system for quality data collection, generation of health information that informs management and policy makers.
The Tonga Medical Association elected its new Committee which comprises of the following members:
Executive committee 2017/2019
President: Reynold ‘Ofanoa
Vice President: Veisinia Matoto
Treasurer: Pafilio Tangitau
A/ Treasurer: Mele Pomale
Secretary: Selelsia Fifita
A/secretary: Alamea Aholelei
Junior rep: Marina Tu’inukuafe
Members: ‘Ofa Tukia and Seventeen Toumoua