They have not been able to return home since Tonga’s borders closed in March 23.
Ministry of Health CEO, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said there’s no viable pathway home for these patients, without stronger collaboration in the region.
“We have difficulty in repatriating back our folks from India, because no one can help us. It is quite a bit frustrating!” he said in a regional conference at the Fa'onelua Centre Thursday.
He believes there is an urgent need for strong collaboration with regional organisations such as the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Community (SPC).
“These institutions, in my view, in the midst of COVID-19, need to be strengthened,” he said.
“Because I think we need to go to them and ask for help and they should be able to have the capacity to help us. I think we need to put resources where we can just ask the Suva office to help us with this.”
The Ministry of Health has been sending patients to India for serious surgical operations that can't be performed in Tonga since 2019. Some patients have also received oncology, radiation and chemotherapy. The cost of being treated in India, is roughly a third of what it costs for the same treatment in New Zealand and Australia.