Solomon Islands Medical Insurance
The Solomon Islands archipelago is located in the South Pacific. Comprising nearly 1,000 tropical islands within a total land mass of 28,400 square kilometers, the Solomon Islands has a population exceeding half a million people. Honiara is the capital city, and is located on Guadalcanal Island. Despite sporadic periods of political instability, the Solomon Islands now boasts one of the region’s more stable economies, with revenues from gold mining, logging, and timber exports providing a large percentage of the country’s income. Its remote location has ensured that a vast majority of the islands have remained undeveloped. The Solomon Islands has a semi-tropical climate with hot and humid weather, and little annual variation in temperature. During the wet season (November to April) the country is prone to severe tropical storms. Located along the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, the Solomon Islands experience regular earthquakes and there is an ongoing risk of tsunamis. In the traditional culture of the Solomon Islands, ancient myths and stories are passed down from one generation to the next to help preserve the unique cultural identity of the islands and its indigenous population.
Formerly part of the British Empire, the Solomon Islands achieved independence in 1978. Internal conflicts during the 1990s had a negative impact on the development and provision of healthcare in the country. Such was the severity of these incidents, that the country came to a virtual standstill on a number of occasions. The situation has now stabilized and the government is dedicated to working with international bodies to improve accessibility to quality healthcare, promote healthy living and improving management of health services. While the standard of healthcare provided by the state is still below that expected in larger and more developed nations, the Solomon Islands government has committed itself to developing strategies to improve accessibility and to raise the basic level of care for the population as a whole.
The Solomon Islands healthcare system is administered by the Ministry of Health and is implemented according to the Ministry’s Corporate Plan, the most recent being published for the period 2006 – 2008. This plan outlines a number of priority areas, the most important being the continued improvement of public health standards, and primary healthcare functions. In 2009, expenditure by the Ministry of Health totaled US$ 32.2 million and this represented a 100 per cent increase on the 2004 figure of US$ 12 million. While the national government continues to provide the majority of funding for health services, a heavy reliance on external financial assistance remains, with 35.9 per cent of the annual figure provided by international donors. Overseas development assistance has seen large increases, for example, from US$ 122 million in 2004 to over 350 million in 2009, with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan (China) and the European Union among the key contributors.
In addition to public health care services, there are private hospitals in Western Province, Malaita Province and in Choiseul Province. Non-nationals, tourists and other short term visitors are required to pay cash for all medical treatment and healthcare services, both public and private, that they may need to access while in the Solomon Islands. Medical facilities on the Solomon Islands are basic and limited, and there are no medical services or pharmacies outside of the major population areas. The largest and most modern public hospital is the National Referral Hospital, located in the capital Honiara. In common with other medical facilities on the Solomon Islands, the hospital suffers from a regular shortage of basic medicines. Medical facilities in the Solomon Islands are capable of treating routine illnesses. Serious medical problems that cannot be treated locally require air-evacuation to Australia. All visitors are advised to seek medical advice before traveling and should purchase a comprehensive international health insurance policy with an emergency evacuation benefit.
Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common illness affecting visitors to the Solomon Islands. Visitors should bring a basic medical kit which should include antibiotic and anti-diarrheal medicines. A number of food-borne, water borne and other infectious diseases are prevalent to the Solomon Islands including hepatitis, tuberculosis and filariasis. Travelers are recommended to seek vaccination advice relevant to the region and to ensure all previous vaccinations are up-to-date prior to departure. Mains tap water is not safe for consumption and only boiled or bottled water should be used. Malaria is prevalent throughout the year, and cases of dengue fever have been known to materialize sporadically. Standard precautions against Malaria and Dengue should be used, such as wearing trousers and long sleeve shirts. A reliable insect repellent should be used at all times.
While overall crime levels are low in the Solomon Islands, petty crime and theft is an everyday occurrence. Visitors are advised to remain vigilant when visiting markets and other areas frequented by tourists, as handbag and mobile phone theft is common. Tourists seeking to visit rural parts of the Solomon Islands are advised to travel with groups or guided tours, as opposed to traveling individually. Measures should be adopted in case of emergency and the main emergency contact number is 999. Other emergency numbers are: Ambulance and Hospital: 911, National Disaster: 955 and Fire: 988. It should be noted that the Solomon Islands emergency services operate under limited resources and response times to calls for assistance are widely known to be slow and unreliable.
In recent years, The Solomon Islands tourist industry has seen a significant increase in the number of holiday makers visiting the country, with its pristine beaches and variety of marine life being among the primary reasons for its popularity as a tourist destination. Despite large numbers of divers visiting the country each year, the In-the-Zone Medical center in the capital Honiara remains the only medical facility with a decompression chamber. This medical center is run by divers and medical volunteers and as a result, experienced divers tend to remain in the Guadalcanal area. There are a number of registered operators in the Honiara area and scuba divers should contact these operators for advice before booking excursions. With limited medical treatment available, divers suffering a medical emergency may need to be air lifted to Australia for treatment.
It is important to reiterate that, while the Solomon Islands will be able to provide basic levels of medical care, serious medical conditions and life threatening accidents can often not be treated within the country. Even when receiving basic healthcare services expatriates will be required to pay for their treatment up front, and in cash. As such, Pacific Prime highly advises that all travelers or expatriates going to the Solomon Islands purchase a comprehensive expatriate medical insurance policy prior to arrival. In the event that you suffer a serious accident or illness while in the country an overseas medical evacuation may be necessary. Emergency medical evacuations can be highly expensive, and as such, it is important that any Solomon Islands health insurance plan which you purchase should provide this coverage benefit.
Travelers to the Solomon Islands must ensure they are sufficiently covered for all possible medical circumstances, including those where air ambulance or medical evacuation may be required. Purchasing comprehensive travel and medical cover is strongly recommended. For more information about the international health insurance products Prime can offer, or to receive a free Solomon Islands medical insurance quote, please contact one of our dedicated advisers today.