DOH director says demand is great; plans to hire more health inspectors
Health Department director Motusa Tuileama Nua says health inspectors have expanded the scope of their work as mandated by law, but there are only six individuals carrying out this work and the department is looking to hire more health inspectors.
Motusa’s statement was made last week during the DOH fiscal year 2014 budget hearing, where lawmakers commended the director and his staff for their work covering the health and safety inspections of schools, restaurants and other establishments.
Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono added that health inspection should also include DOH inspectors looking at stores selling expired food items to protect local residents. Additionally, the director was told to check on some of these road side vendors to make sure they are in full compliance with the law.
Soliai says one of his concerns with road side vendors is the dust from the road getting into food items being sold along the road.
Motusa says there are only six staff involved with inspection work out in the field — covering the entire territory — and DOH needs additional money to hire more staff. He says inspectors are covering various areas of the territory such as schools, stores, restaurants, the port, the marketplace and road side vendors.
Additionally, staff are also working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department. “There is a lot of demand and only six inspectors,” he said.
As to committee questions on medical personnel, Motusa explained there are currently ten physicians employed with DOH and he hopes to hire four more to serve the entire territory. He says that in previous years, many of the positions filled were administrative, but now he is pushing to hire more doctors and nurses.
For Manu’a, the director says a permanent doctor has already been hired and has been working for a month and a half covering the DOH clinics on Ofu and Ta’u islands. He also said DOH is working to have the clinics in Manu’a be certified as community health centers — similar to the designations for those on Tutuila — thereby making them eligible for federal assistance. (Samoa News should point out that this has been the same message over the last eight years from previous DOH leaders — the need to have Manu'a clinics designated as community health centers.)
Motusa also advised that DOH had requested and the World Health Organization approved funding to send two students to the Fiji School of Medicine, and this is their only WHO funding at this time.
Responding to committee questions on whether DOH qualifies to get funding through the federal Medicaid program, Motusa said yes, but they are currently working on the paperwork for submission to the federal government to get these benefits.
DOH is proposing a $9.42 million budget for FY 2014 - with $2.24 million funded by local revenue and $7.17 million in federal grants covering more than ten programs, such as immunization and health, a tuberculosis program and infrastructure program.
For the current fiscal year, DOH’s budget stands at $8.84 million.