Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Maldives, H.E. Wang Lixin; Minister at the President’s Office Mr Ali Shiyam; Minister of State for Health Dr Shah Abdullah Mahir; visiting delegation of healthcare professionals from China; the management and staff of Hulhumalé Hospital; distinguished guests.
And good evening.
It is my pleasure to join you today for the inauguration of the China-Maldives programme to enhance skills and services at the N.D. Abdulla Abdul Hakeem Ophthalmology Center. And I wish to officially welcome the visiting delegation of medical professionals, doctors and nurses from China to the Maldives.
I take it as my first responsibility today to thank H.E. Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, his government, and the National Health Commission of China for their assistance and cooperation in building capacity at the Ophthalmology Center and the provision of quality ophthalmology care here in Hulhumalé Hospital. I also extend my gratitude to H.E. Wang Lixin and her team here in the Maldives and the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center of Sun Yat-sen University of China for their partnership with Hulhumalé Hospital and assistance in this endeavour.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When our administration took office, the Maldives was not at an ideal point in terms of our relations with our neighbours and international partners. However, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih made it one of his biggest priorities to enhance international acceptance of the Maldives' foreign policy. We have worked diligently over the past four years and had exceptional success in our engagement with the international community.
We have established diplomatic relations with 94 percent of the members of the United Nations. This level of achievement in such a short period is unprecedented in recent memory. And programmes such as these are the fruits of our endeavours and bear testament to the strong foreign policy of President Solih and our efforts to increase our engagement with the international community.
The centralisation of healthcare services in the capital, Malé City, by past administrations has led to numerous and severe challenges. We pledged to change that. We promised to eliminate the need to travel to Malé whenever a patient needed medical care. And to sustainably overcome these challenges, we launched ambitious plans to develop regional tertiary hospitals. Our plans to bring this idea to fruition are already underway. And it will be complemented by the Raajje Transport Link (RTL) high-speed ferry services we introduced last year.
There is a significant need to improve the quality of services provided at healthcare facilities across the country. To accomplish this, we need to provide education and training opportunities for healthcare professionals. I am happy that this programme is an excellent addition to training doctors and nurses in the ophthalmic profession and will allow us to enhance ophthalmology services.
We harmonised the pay of the education sector last year; this year, we are focusing on the healthcare sector. As President Solih announced earlier this month, our plans to raise the wages and allowances of healthcare professionals will come into effect on May 1. With that, we plan to make a significant change to the salaries of healthcare professionals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The N.D. Abdulla Abdul Hakeem Ophthalmology Centre was opened in 2020 with generous assistance from the Chinese government to provide sophisticated ophthalmic services and deliver treatment for complicated eye conditions. I understand this is the fourth visit to the Maldives by the ophthalmic teams from Zhongshan Ophthalmic Centre.
There is a growing need for ophthalmic services in the Maldives, as we can see from the number of patients registering for consultations under the programme. Over 500 patients were treated in an eye camp in January 2020 with the assistance of the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center and the Chinese government. Over 1,000 patients were also screened earlier as part of such camps, with the support of the Chinese government.
I must thank Professor Chen Weiron and her team of doctors and nurses with us today, two of whom will continue training for Hulhumalé Hospital staff for the next six months. I would also like to call on the management and staff of Hulhumalé Hospital to use this opportunity to train their skills and increase their knowledge in the field. And I wish you all the success of this programme.
We look forward to working closely with the Chinese government in acquiring assistance and cooperation in many fields, and I am confident that China-Maldives friendship and cooperation will be strengthened over many years.
Thank you very much.