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Faipule question DOH reshuffling, action on NCD

In a letter sent to the new Department of Health director, Representatives Larry Sanitoa and Archie Taotasi Soliai are appealing for him to act quickly on the lack of any new development of the territory’s Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Plan. 


The faipules also point out they are disturbed at the reported massive reorganizational plans currently happening within DOH — in particular the hiring of certain new personnel and reassignment of several DOH employees — which may affect the department’s statutory core mission.


Last month DOH Director Motusa Tuileama To’atolu Nua hired three people from the Information Technology Office, Easter Bruce, Jacinta Tialavea, and Martha Folegi.


Additionally, he has also hired Papali’i Marion Fitisemanu from the Governor’s Office, who was formerly listed as a special assistant to the lieutenant governor.


Motusa has also reassigned several DOH employees, including the appointment of Fara Utu as Acting Deputy Director of Health, while also overseeing the Non-Communicable Disease Program (NCD), which was previously overseen by Jackie Tulafono; and long time nurse, Dottie Siavi’i has been appointed to serve as the Associate Director of Nursing.


Motusa told Samoa News that Utu and Fara were highly recommended from DOH officials and also during the transitional period Utu and Siavi’I were very cooperative in relaying information and were the ones who always lent him a helping hand, since he came into office.  


Sanitoa and Taotasi said while they understand Motusa’s intention to position the people he believes will best serve the department, they are concerned that his reorganizational plans for DOH might be counterproductive and adversely affect the DOH statutory core mission of prevention and intervention.


The letter further states that during Motusa’s confirmation before the House, Sanitoa and Taotasi told the director they have been members of the NCD Coalition since its inception in 2011 and the Diabetes and Cancer Coalitions.


“The NCD Coalition which was chaired by your predecessor, Ms. Elisapeta Ponausuia consisted of members from different ASG departments and agencies, which was established to focus on finding solutions to combat what is now a major health crisis in our territory. 


“During your confirmation, we highlighted several disheartening statistics which were alarming. These numbers were confirmed at the Bi-Lateral Summit late last year with Samoa. Furthermore, these statistics were part of the report which was recently submitted by PIMA, an organization that was contracted by DOH to work on a comprehensive plan.


“The data shows 60% of all deaths in the Territory are caused by NCDs, and significantly, American Samoans are dying much younger. In 2004, 25% of deaths occurred among persons 45 to 64 years old; today that number has reached 33%. In the United States, it is 16%.


“There are more adults with Diabetes than those who do not, in American Samoa, and this group accounts for 69% of all hospital admissions. Also reported, are the number of youths now being diagnosed as young as 11 years old with Type II ‘lifestyle’ diabetes. 


“Reports confirmed the top 5 causes for death in American Samoa are non-communicable disease-related, which also account for more than half of all the deaths from 2008-2010”.


The representatives noted that aside from health, the social and economic impact of NCD to individual families, to the government, and to future economic growth, is devastating. 


“The numbers are frightening and overwhelming and again, as mentioned during your confirmation hearing, two years ago the Department of Interior (DOI) approved $3 million of our annual Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding to extend the current Dialysis Unit at LBJ, Tropical Medical Center due to a 37% increase in the number of patients receiving dialysis from 2001 to 2007, with 2011 rates significantly higher.


“It has also been reported by LBJ that patients are entering dialysis as early as age 18 years old”.


The faipules noted that although the director’s efforts in addressing and maintaining other ongoing programs within DOH are greatly appreciated, they also believe it is equally important for him to seriously review the existing work DOH has initiated since partnering with the NCD Coalition and the recent plans by PIMA. 


“Undoubtedly you will concur that it is critical to continue the momentum of the plans in progress for NCD and assure its continuity. The severity of the health problems in our Territory and the adverse implications to our people especially our youth, the government and the future generations compels us to urgently request your support to take a strong leadership role in moving forward with the Territorial NCD plans.”


They urged the Director to give this matter serious consideration and noted they are willing to work with Motusa to collaborate information to help support their request to find solutions to prevent and resolve the health crisis in the Territory.