Health sector merge next month

By Joyetter Luamanu ,

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Samoa’s National Hospital Building at Moto’otua during it’s opening in 2013.

Samoa’s National Hospital Building at Moto’otua during it’s opening in 2013.

The merge of the health sector’s Ministry of Health (M.O.H.), National Health Services (N.H.S.) and National Kidney Foundation (N.K.F.S.) will take place next month. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi revealed this during his weekly conference with the media.

In May, 2017, Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuitama confirmed the numerous predicaments arising from the Health Sector agencies and the merge is the end result. 

Tuilaepa said the merge process should not take any longer now. 

“I was informed that it will happen soon; there are sensitive issues that need to be dealt with prior to the merge taking place. 

“Well it’s not really that sensitive; it is the same when the sectors were separated once before and now merging again. 

“The intention by the Minister of Health is to have this merge happen next month,” said Tuilaepa. 

As reported earlier, Tuitama told the Samoa Observer that the poor quality of healthcare; NZ$10million (T$17.7 million) spent on sending patients off island for treatment; too much money spent on hiring top officials rather than funding going to clinical services; duplicating work and lack of working relationship between the sectors are among the many reasons “the merge is appropriate” between the health agencies. 

Tuitama explained that it’s been 10 years since N.H.S. and the M.O.H. were separated.

Over the years, the problems of offices not working together and the services not being up to par has continued. 

“It’s apparent that the Ministry does its own thing, they are not working together, yet each Ministry cannot work without the other. 

“They need the cooperation of one another; this is the reason behind the problems that have occurred.” 

He said another reason was the lack of appropriate health care services as the Ministry’s priority was not the right place. 

Tuitama said at the time, there was a lack of appropriate equipment for better healthcare, the lack of experts and specialists and also the government is spending more than NZ$10million sending patients for treatment off island.  

“And this is every year. Yet because we have a new hospital, the service should be up to par.” 

The Minister said the question had been asked as to why the services were not up to par despite the new hospital.

It is expected the healthcare should be somewhat at the top level. 

“It’s unclear why the hospital hasn’t hired experts and specialists to conduct heart surgery, Ear Nose and Throat (E.N.T.) specialists and eye doctors.

“We have a good hospital and we should be able to bring in the latest equipment to better the services but that’s not happening.” 

The Minister is especially concerned with the increasing numbers of people utilizing the dialysis clinic and it raises the questions as to why. 

“Yet there are managers, assistant managers, officials with their assistants, the management has increased and depriving the clinical services, funds should go to these services, another reason which has prompted the move for a better change for the Ministry.” 

Tuitama pointed out that more than 100 people are employed with the corporate service at M.O.H., almost the same number of people are working for N.H.S. and N.K.F.S “yet these three agencies have the same goals”. 

“Do we need all these corporate services, the increasing numbers of management personnel and yet the clinical services are starving. 

“The top management is quite heavy creating all the new positions and in doing so they are there is duplication of services.”

According to Tuitama, N.H.S. is mandated by M.O.H. in terms of Human Resources and quality assurance but it appears, they have hired their own people to do the same job and this means not only duplication of work, but also triplicating of services. 

Aside from the management level each of the agencies has their own boards. 

“This is a service provider not a revenue earner and also the government is not looking for money by using our hospital.

“The government is paying to take members of public off island, if the operation cannot be done locally; it’s the responsibility of the government to send the people off island to get treatment.” 

“Because it is the responsibility of the government.... $10million that is, yet the hospital is not prioritizing the public.

“These are some of the most difficult predicaments behind the move to merge these ministries.” 

According to Tuitama, experts who visited Samoa have given the advice and suggested to “merge the services to minimize the excess”.

The Minister said merging was nothing new to the government, and Samoa was not the only country that’s done this. 

He said in government there were ministries which had been created and established, yet in less than 10 years, they are back under the umbrella where they were separated from. 

“If we see the problem we have to fix it right away. We don’t wait; we act immediately. Prevention is better than cure,” said the Minister.  

The Minister said there is a mission, a group of heart surgeons in Samoa, and they are conducting valve replacements. 

“It costs the government $50,000 for one operation and we had 14 operations conducted by this group.

“The government has saved a lot of money, but this guided mission is kind of a goodwill mission. 

“Our main core is to cater to the needs of these people, but we can’t just rely on the goodwill of others.

“We need to stand on our own two feet, it is up to these people to help us or not.” 

The Minister said we needed to “increase our own capacity to extend our own ability to deal with our own problems. 

“So based on those reasons and many others I cannot discuss with you fully, not because I don’t want to, but simply because we don’t have enough time, there are a lot of things involved that have an impact on the management issues. 

“The government feels that it is the appropriate time and it is the right move at this time to merge in order to minimize the impact at the management level.” 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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