doctor-basil-VANUATUThe Council of Chiefs on Maewo have called on the Public Service Commission (PSC) to immediately reinstate Dr. Basil Leodoro, the suspended surgeon for the Northern Provincial Hospital (NPH) in Luganville, Santo.

Dr. Leodoro was suspended by the PSC for comments he made in the social media, allegedly “threatening” the Prime Minister.

In a letter addressed to the Minister of Health, signed by Maewo Custom Chief Ellison Rasaure and five Maewo Area Council Chiefs, they asked for the immediate reinstatement by the PSC of Dr. Leodoro.

Writing on behalf of the Maewo Council of Chiefs, the people of Maewo, the Maewo Telecommunications Committee, community leaders and the wider Maewo community in Vanuatu, the chiefs expressed their concern over the decision to of the PSC to suspend Dr. Basil Leodoro.

“We see this decision as unconstitutional and unprofessional as our Constitution protects the rights for freedom of expression. It is clearly a poorly informed decision,” the letter states, adding: “Furthermore, Dr. Leodoro is a clinical leader and medical officer for Maewo health services”.

The letter highlights that Maewo is the national leader in telemedicine under the Vanuatu Inter-island Telemedicine and Learning (VITAL) network and Dr. Leodoro has been a core member of this initiative that has brought together curative and community health workers for the benefit of the people of Maewo.

“Through the Maewo VITAL network, Dr. Leodoro and his team have been able to provide specialized surgical, medical, paediatric and O&G advice, organize emergency medical evacuations, outpatient referrals, organize palliative care and empower our nurses to treat cases on Maewo and prevent unnecessary referral, the chiefs stated.

“This has helped cut down the large costs that the families and the Ministry of Heath have to spend on Maewo referrals to Lolowai, Luganville or Port Vila.”

The chiefs say island’s health services have also benefitted from Dr. Leodoro’s outreach visits to all major health centres on Maewo as he and his team have conducted needs assessments, upskilled health workers and conducted clinics.

He is the first and only Master’s qualified surgeon to visit Maewo in the last decade and his opinion on surgical cases are appreciated, they added. He is also the only Master’s qualified surgeon to reach the remote village of Naviso on East Maewo and conduct clinics there, the chiefs continue.

“Maewo patients have benefitted from accessing and receiving timely surgery. Emergency cases are referred appropriately and receive safe surgical care under Dr. Leodoro’s team in Northern Provincial Hospital.”

Dr. Leodoro was a member of the Emergency Medical Team disaster response to Ambae volcano that visited Maewo and provided assistance to the Maewo Emergency Operations Center and the Maewo health staff and services to vulnerable populations like pregnant mothers, people living with disability and sick patients for referral.

For the above reasons, the Maewo chiefs are strongly asking for the immediate reinstatement of Dr. Leodoro by the PSC.

The call by the chiefs of Maewo is the third appeal from the chiefs of Maewo and Ambae to the PSC and the Government through the Ministry of Health for the reinstatement of Dr. Leodoro.

When asked about the letter from the Chief of Maewo, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, George Taleo, confirmed he and the Director of Curative and Hospital Services, Dr. Willie Tokon, had seen the correspondence. He added that they have consulted the Chairman of the PSC, Martin Mahe, over the matter of the suspension and that “the Chairman was okay for the reinstatement of Dr. Leodoro.”

However, DG Taleo added that they needed Dr. Leodoro to perform a custom ceremony of reconciliation and say sorry before him and the Director Hospital and Curative Services, then he can be immediately reinstated.

But Dr. Leodoro has responded that he has been in touch with the Secretary of the Public Service Commission to let him know that he preferred the issue of his suspension to be settled through the Public Service Staff Manual process. And being a labor union member, he also wanted the issue to be resolved in line with the union process, the first step of which was an 8-point letter he wrote to the Secretary of PSC in November, to which he has not yet received a response.

Dr. Leodoro pointed to two years’ work done in the islands of Northern Province health care to set up surgical and clinical standards at health facilities in Norsup on Malekula, West and East Ambrym, Pentecost, Maewo, Ambae and Sola in the Banks group. His suspension has impacted this work.

“I believe the reactions of the chiefs are because they value the work of the Northern Provincial Hospital under the leadership of Dr. Andy Ilo to establish a standard of surgical and clinical services in the health services, and now that it is broken down and their people are affected, they are reacting,” he said.

He added that he was honored that the chiefs are supporting him and calling for his reinstatement and he is urging the Public Service Commission to appreciate the situations of the chiefs and hence their calls for his reinstatement.

“As far as i am concerned, i would like to follow the Public Service Commission Staff Manual process and the union process to resolve the issue.”

It is understood that since Dr. Leodoro’s suspension about 20 surgical cases from Northern Provincial Hospital have had to be referred to Vila Central Hospital where they were done because of his absence, thereby increasing the costs to Government.