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August 7 2019

Speech of the President Edouard Fritch, French Polynesia Presidency

Official opening of the 13th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting

07 August 2019 - Papeete (French Polynesia)

Honourable Regional Director of the World Health Organization, Dear Doctor KASAI,

Honourable Health Ministers, Dear Friends from The Pacific,

onourable Director-General of the South Pacific Community,

Ladies and gentlemen, in your ranks and functions,

Dear friends,

Welcome all of you to French Polynesia.

My government and I are very pleased to welcome you today on the 13th meeting of health ministers. This is a first and we are honoured by your large and high-level attendance.

I would like to extend my thanks to the World Health Organization and to the South Pacific Community, which, along with French Polynesia, put their financial, technical and human resources together to enable us to gather in this place. Thank you once again for being here.

This meeting is the first to be held in a French Pacific territory. This reflects the consideration you give to French Polynesia among Pacific Member States.

French Polynesia is pleased to have found its place in the heart of the Pacific region.

Our country will humbly assume its commitments and responsibilities. It will represent the voices of the Pacific and ensure the implementation of cooperation between Pacific countries in the field of health.

On behalf of everyone, I would particularly like to acknowledge the presence of Dr. Takeshi KASAI, Director-General of World Health Organisation for the Pacific region, as well as the Health Ministers of Australia, Honorable Mr Greg HUNT, and New Zealand, Honorable Mrs Jenny SALESA.

Your presence among us testifies of your interest and consideration towards the small countries and states in the Pacific.

If our country was able to find this rightful place, it is first and foremost because of its close collaboration with the World Health Organization and the South Pacific Community.

Then, it can also be explained by the political will of Pacific Health Ministers and its special relationship with the Pacific regional office of the World Health Organization.

I want to thank you all for the constant attention you show towards French Polynesia. This is reflected by your presence today and your participation in our latest events.

The people of French Polynesia benefit from universal health coverage under a Social Healthcare System. Almost the entire population of our country, more than 98.5%, are covered under this system.

We can say that every inhabitants benefit from healthcare services, even in the most remote islands of our archipelagos.

We recently launched another important reform : the pension reform.

Each and every one of those who have worked should be entitled, in return, to a decent income when they leave the workforce to retire. This wish still requires some efforts from our part and needs to be secured for the future.

Our social and healthcare system is built on solidarity.

Our country also consolidates the management of medical treatment which today, it cannot fully handle.

I will take the example of cancer treatment: we are still obliged, like some of you, to send our patients to neighbouring or distant countries.

For example, New Zealand welcomes some of them, for which we are grateful. Others need to go to France. In this case, patients and their families are separated by almost 20,000 km. This is a painful situation we all know since you are also facing similar situations.

This is why I have asked the Health Minister of my Government, Honorable Dr. Jacques RAYNAL, to use his best efforts so that the largest number of cancer patients be treated in our hospital.

In this regard, I am also contemplating, on the one hand, opening our doors to patients from Pacific countries and, on the other hand, setting up genuine cooperation between countries in the area of training for our respective health personnel.

France brings us assistance from a technical point of view and will support us in this endeavour. Our objective is to set up a Polynesian Cancer Institute.

I also asked Dr. Raynal to implement a reliable telemedicine network. This is an obvious need for French Polynesia due to its geographical spread on the one hand, and substantial investments made by our country in order to connect most of the large islands of all our archipelagos by optical fibre, on the other hand.

Telemedicine experiments on four remote islands are under way and hopefully we can apply this device more widely in the near future.

Other important topics are also on the agenda of your discussions and aim to increase the resilience of our communities facing global warming and its consequences.

I mention the issue of fighting against non-communicable diseases such as obesity and its disastrous consequences. Or fighting against the proliferation of mosquitoes carrying diseases as denguee fever or zika. This is an opportunity to exchange our knowledge and experience. We have so much to learn from one another.

Since French Polynesia became a full Member of the Pacific Islands Forum, our international relations have operated in a serene atmosphere. This makes it possible for us to exchange views in a more positive and constructive manner.

It is my hope that your presence and your participation in this Congress of Pacific Health Ministers results in even stronger ties between our countries.

I wish you a fruitful conference and constructive deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.