Press Release : On 22 November 2019, The Hon. Tuilaepa Dr. Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of the Independent St ate of Samoa called for all Samoan health professionals to assist Samoa in whatever way possible during the time of national emergency with the measles epidemic in Samoa.
In collaboration with the Director General of Health - Leausa Dr Take Naseri, the Samoan Doctors Worldwide Volunteers (SDWVS) was deployed with 7 medical teams working 2 weeks at a time from 23/12/2019 for 14 weeks. One of their key aims was to relieve and provide support for local doctors working within the Ministry in a range of areas, aligned with their skills and expertise. These skills set include primary care; paediatrics; general medicine; ENT; psychiatry; public health; surgery; obstetrics and gynaecology.
Team 1 started on the 23/12/2019 and was led by Leota Dr Lisi Kalisi Petaia, who is Samoa’s first and only consultant psychiatrist. Dr Petaia works in the Mason Clinic Auckland, Waitemata District Health Board which is New Zealand’s Regional Forensic Psychiatric Service.
Members of this team were based at APCC (Outpatients) area; medical wards, obstetrics & gynaecology, and mental health services at the TTM Hospital, Moto’otua.
The latter two areas also carried out clinics, and surgical operations for women by Moananu Dr Karaponi Okesene (consultant specialist, NZ) at the Malietoa Tanumafili II Hospital at Tuasivi, Savaii.
The support of New Zealand District Health Boards and relevant organizations in Australia has enabled our volunteers to serve here in Samoa voluntarily.
Team 2 has just started its service and is being led by Leafitaitu Dr Jimmy Eteuati, who is a consultant surgeon based in Adelaide, Australia.
Team 2 includes staff who are consultant surgeons and consultant anaesthetists from both Australia, and New Zealand, assisting in supporting the local teams to re-start surgical operations which were put on hold during the measles epidemic response.
Other members of this team are general practitioners and are based in the APCC (Outpatients) area at the TTM Hospital, Moto’otua.
The SDWVS group is grateful for the opportunity to serve Samoa during a time of national crisis and is now involved in providing support during the recovery phase. They are glad to be working with and alongside their local colleagues in the provision of health services. Their common purpose is to return the status of healthcare in the country to what is satisfactory and safe for the community.
Samoa can certainly achieve a world-class healthcare service for its people, because of its embedded cultural value systems, strong local communities, self-belief, excellent international networks (demonstrated by this new initiative); underscored by its unwavering belief in God. We
pride ourselves of our national motto: Samoa is founded on God. The Government and well as churches have all begun 2020 with a week of prayers and fasting for Samoa.
The Samoan Doctors Worldwide Volunteers Service is willing to work collaboratively and cooperatively with the Samoan Government; its Ministry of Health, their medical colleagues in the Samoa Medical Association (SMA); the Samoa Association of General Practitioners (GP’s), the local universities; NGO’s, and the people of Samoa, for no other reason than to help and assist in improving the health system for our beloved nation.
We will always be ready and willing to assist where and when our country, families, and communities call. We hope to be of continued service during the recovery phase and beyond.
We know that all Samoan doctors, nurses, health practitioners and allied services based overseas are willing to assist in time of crisis like this.
The SDWVS fully acknowledges the hard work of local doctors (both public and private) and recognizes that support for them post crisis will be required. Our colleagues in Samoa will need support for some time and our group is well placed to help, voluntarily.
Other government and aid agencies have sent assistance; the encouragement of our families and friends here and abroad also gave us the strength to coordinate our response with all our members being requested to be self- funded – for travel, accommodation and personal on the ground expenses, to ensure that we are a helpful support for the whole process.
We acknowledge and appreciate everyone and our colleagues from all over the globe who came to help Samoa.
Our group’s point of difference is that we are proudly Samoans and we are here to serve our families and communities.
As a specialist psychiatrist, Dr Petaia believes that there is an ongoing need for mental health and wellbeing support at different levels. “We are in this for the long haul, and these are our families and communities who are affected”.
As other teams complete their service, the Samoan Doctors Worldwide Volunteers Service continue their support, providing relief aligned with their expertise and scope of practice.
The secretariat for the deployment is currently provided by the Office of the Assoc. Dean (Pacific), University of Otago, headed by Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga.
Its Pacific Regional Coordinator, Frances Brebner, worked previously as the Registrar for the Samoa Ministry of Health, and has been on the ground in Samoa since October 2019. She will continue to be in Samoa until the end of the deployment 31 March 2020.