A review of health leadership and management capacity in the Solomon Islands

Pac Health Dialog. 2012 Apr;18(1):166-77.


ACCESS AND UTILISATION OF HEALTH CARE: The armed conflict that engulfed the Solomon Islands between 1998 and 2003 significantly disrupted the provision of health care especially in rural and remote areas. There is one doctor for 3,300 people and approximately 13 nurses and midwives for 10,000 people. Despite limitations 87% of people seek health care when sick. FINANCING THE HEALTH SYSTEM: The SIG placed a series of reservations on ministerial goods and services budgets that effectively the budget by 33%, severely impacting provincial budgets and resulting in acquired debts. Shortfalls have been addressed by allocating Health Sector Support Program funds to the provinces to allow services to continue, a strategy that will likely recur, but by which donor support replaces government provision Provincial health accountants have received training in MYOB in 2009 but acquittal systems require higher level accounting skills for reports to be submitted on time to permit the release of subsequent funding tranches. HUMAN RESOURCES FOR HEALTH: The shortage of doctors and specialists is a key challenge. As at December 2010, there were a total of 2,728 health workers in the public sector in Solomon Islands. Staff costs consume on average 55% of provincial health grants Filled Public Service Division staff establishments and budgetary reservations have reduced the ability to meet the salary and wage costs of new graduates. Solomon Islands is currently negotiating to assist Vanuatu in filling its nursing staff vacancies with its surplus The return of 75 Cuban trained medical officers from 2013 presents the management challenge of accessing budget provisions for so many new positions and in funding the infrastructure needed to house, equip and maintain them in service. HEALTH MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE: Provincial health managers are operationally responsive to local needs, managerially responsible to provincial governments, while being concerned with adherence to central MHMS policy and to Ministry of Finance and Public Service Division regulations. The delineation of central and provincial health authorities' responsibilities requires guidelines in a changing system, where both population-based and targeted vertical programs are implemented at local levels. NUMBER AND DISTRIBUTION OF MANAGERS: Nine of the 10 positions of Provincial Health Director have experienced high turnover, which reportedly occurs without adequate handover to incoming appointees, most of whom are recent clinical graduates. Health services in the Honiara urban area are provided through the Honiara City Council. Church health services are staffed by government employees. COMPETENCE OF DISTRICT HEALTH MANAGERS: Management skills are reportedly weak at the provincial level. The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands provides governance training inputs to provincial government staff. Provincial health departments have limited financial and human resource management capacity. They also have clinical backgrounds and no training in public health planning or health services management, other than that provided by donors, the Regional Assistance Mission itself and the MHMS. MANAGEMENT WORKING ENVIRONMENT: Provincial health directors have limited control over health staff. Little supportive supervision in management is provided to new provincial health directors. No performance management systems are in place to ensure that staff are properly assessed and supported to do their best Large numbers of non-government organisations working at the provincial level in youth and women's programs require coordination by Provincial health directors to avoid duplication or implementation of programs that will require ongoing funding, but this is not done. FUNCTIONING OF MANAGEMENT SUPPORT SYSTEMS: Management support systems for budgeting and finance, management information and procurement and supply do not function adequately to support provincial health directors to manage effectively. THE SOCIO-CULTURAL CONTEXT: Socio-cultural issues such as favouritism based on kinship, discrimination against women and the big-man culture have implications for effective management and strong health leadership These cultural features create situations where a manager may be reluctant to discipline a member of their clan, or where a person with cultural influence may be able to distort systems.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Health Facility Administration*
  • Health Resources / organization & administration
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Melanesia