By Staff Writer
The Ministry of Health CEO Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, welcomes with gratitude and relief, the offer of help by Samoan doctors worldwide to the measles epidemic in Samoa.
The Samoan Doctors Worldwide volunteer service, is deploying 40 Samoan doctors for 14 weeks, working about two weeks at a time, from 23 December to 31 March 2020.
“ Big help and good timing, we can afford to space out the work schedule with other overseas medical volunteers to give our local staff a much needed break,” Leausa reacted.
“Everyone has been putting in long hours working beyond the normal 8 hour shifts and all staff leave are also cancelled.”
Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga, Associate Dean (Pacific), Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago and Leota Dr. Lisi Petaia, President, Pacific Island Mental Health Professional Association (PIMHPA), New Zealand, are the organisers of the support by Samoan doctors from around the world.
“In addition to responding to the measles epidemic, there are the usual medical and surgical illnesses that need attending to,” Associate Professor Sopoaga explained when the offer was made public.
“Our Samoan volunteer medical doctors will be working in different areas ranging from surgical, medical, and general practice work.”
Faumuina was actually in Samoa when the measles outbreak was officially declared, according to CEO Leausa.
“She came to Samoa on another matter but stayed on for a few days to help out with the outbreak before she returned to New Zealand.
“I really am grateful to her and Leota for organising this help, we can use every support we can in this epidemic.”
Leota Dr. Petaia felt that as fluent speakers of the Samoan language and understand the local culture, the transition of support by doctors will be smooth.
“We are working closely with Samoa’s Ministry of Health and our colleagues in the Samoan Medical Association,”, Dr. Petaia says.
She believes there is a need for mental health and wellbeing support at a later stage.
“For now, the priority is for acute care and for clinicians from outside Samoa to relieve their local colleagues so they can rest and be with their family and loved ones around the Christmas period,” she says.
Former Samoa Ministry of Health Registrar and now University of Otago Pacific Regional Coordinator, Ms. Frances Brebner is already in Samoa to support the deployment.
“Our engagement will be for an extended period due to the nature of the situation. We are in this for the long haul. These are our families who are affected,” Leota Dr Petaia says.
“We are all in this together,” Associate Professor Sopoaga says.
“There are also many stakeholders who wish to support these and other efforts. We will all be working together to mobilise a coordinated approach to maximise our collective efforts.”