Vanuatu Medical Insurance
Health care is a serious social issue in Vanuatu, as distance between islands and the relative poverty of the country make delivery of quality care difficult. Life expectancy is 67 years for males, and 70 years for females. Health expenditure per capita is about USD139, which is less than one fourth of the Western Pacific regional average, or 4.2 percent of GDP. Vanuatu suffers from a severe shortage of qualified health care professionals. There are only 1.4 doctors per 10,000 population, which is just one tenth of the regional average; there are 16.6 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, which is also low for the region. This human resource shortage seems likely to persist as the number of health care workers graduating from the Vanuatu Centre for Nursing Education is exceeded by the projected number of retirees for the foreseeable future.
Government expenditure makes up nearly 80 percent of total health care spending in Vanuatu, though social security spending is nearly nonexistent. In the private sector, most health care spending comes from out of pocket expenses, with Vanuatu health insurance representing only about 11 percent of total private health care spending. External funding from overseas represents about 10 percent of total health care expenditure in Vanuatu. All inpatient services in Vanuatu, and 60 percent of outpatient care, is funded by the Ministry of Health. There are five public hospitals, and one private hospital in Vanuatu; with 27 additional health centres located across all islands. Over 200 aid posts serve smaller, more remote, areas; while these are funded locally, the Vanuatu Ministry of Health provides medicine and training. Most serious conditions are sent overseas to Australia or New Zealand for treatment and care. As such, all expatriates travelling to Vanuatu are highly advised to purchase an international health insurance policy which provides an emergency evacuation benefit, as the costs associated with repatriation and evacuation from the area can be considerable.
The Vanuatu Ministry of Health developed a sector strategy for the years 2010 – 2016 to address and prioritise health care concerns and measure responses. Broadly speaking, these goals include: reduction of infant and maternal mortality; an increase in births attended by trained health personnel; improved immunization coverage; more contraceptive prevalence; an overall decrease in malaria, TB and noncommunicable disease incidence; and the availability of timely and accurate health statistics. However, challenges persist in a population which is spread over 80 remote islands, and population growth strains environmental resources. Vanuatu has recently become prey to more of the “so-called” diseases of modernity, such as hypertension, diabetes and strokes. However, according to the WHO, Vanuatu ‘can likely or potentially achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2015’.
While most urban residents now have access to improved drinking water, this is not the case in rural areas where fewer than 80 percent of inhabitants have clean drinking water. However, this figure is a serious improvement from 1990 when only about half of the rural population had clean water. Access to improved sanitation facilities is also substandard, and is available to about half of Vanuatuans.
Malaria is Vanuatu’s top health concern. The introduction of a rapid diagnostic test in 2008 correlated to an annual reduction in cases from 73.9 per 1,000 Vanuatuans to 23.3 currently. Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health has used funding from the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to combat the disease, largely through widespread distribution of insecticide treated bed-nets. However, the goal remains total elimination of all Malaria cases, which has yet to be achieved. Proper prophylactic measures include insect repellent with DEET, mosquito bed nets and wearing long-sleeved clothing. Antimalarial drugs are recommended, preferably atovaquone, proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline and mefloquine.
Cases of tuberculosis (TB) are relatively rare, at 88 per 100,000 people, or approximately half of the global norm. Vanuatu is also an at-risk area for natural disasters, including earthquakes, flooding and volcanoes. There was a typhoid outbreak on Tanna island in 2006, and there is still concern of an underlying threat of Typhoid throughout the country. Health concerns related to scuba diving, such as ‘the bends’, have increased as tourism becomes more popular.
Before visiting Vanuatu, a visit to a travel medicine specialist is highly recommended. At minimum, routine vaccinations should be updated, including: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) and poliovaccine, as well as hepatitis A and B and typhoid.
Despite Vanuatu’s increasing modernity, the country’s local health care resources may vary widely in quality depending on the area. Precautions relating to health care should be made before making a trip. The country has a very limited local private health insurance system, so arrangements should be made before travel. Emergency evacuation to Australia or New Zealand is usually required for any situation requiring serious medical attention in the country; insurance and other arrangements should be planned in advance accordingly. Furthermore, the risk of natural disaster makes planning for evacuation contingencies of even greater importance.
Our experienced teams worldwide would be delighted to provide a no-cost consultation on available insurance options, whether you are travelling alone, with your family or with a tour group. Our policies cover a wide range of medical services including: dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services and more. Please contact a Pacific Prime adviser today for further global health insurance details, or a free consultation.