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DoH doctors and nurses are serving the community, says director

StarKist Samoa official Taotasi Archie Soliai [SN file photo]

Health Director Motusa Tuileama Nua informed a Senate committee hearing last week that DoH is looking at sending a team to StarKist Samoa to help with the process of issuing health cards, in an effort to alleviate the overcrowding of the DoH clinic at Fagaalu, as there are other members of the community that use the clinic for health cards and physical tests. (See Samoa News Jan. 17th edition for details).

He also noted that DoH doctors and nurses are serving well at the department’s health clinics in Tafuna — despite the public’s complaints about the long wait time.

StarKist Samoa has expressed appreciation to government directors, including Motusa, for their willingness to help cannery workers fulfill legal requirements, for which employment at the cannery is contingent.

Motusa met Jan. 13th with StarKist Samoa official Taotasi Archie Soliai to explore ways to help with the issuance of health cards for cannery workers. It’s unclear when the DoH will send a team to assist cannery workers at the Atu’u plant, but Motusa is looking at conducting a clinic between 4p.m to 6p.m. or even the weekend.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Taotasi said Starkist Samoa “appreciates the willingness and supportive efforts” of ASG directors, such as the Health director, “to help the cannery employees fulfill their legal requirements so they can continue their employment.”

“Our meeting [with DoH] was very productive and we look forward to further collaboration with director Motusa and his DoH Team towards this shared goal,” Taotasi said this week.

Starkist Samoa resumed full production on Jan. 15th following a three week end-of-the-year shutdown. “We need all employees back at work as soon as possible,” said Taotasi, who didn’t immediately respond to follow up questions on how many cannery employees are still waiting for their health cards.

One of the issues raised by Motusa during the Senate hearing is the shortage of physicians at DoH. And this issue has been cited by lawmakers as the reason why the Fagaalu clinic is only open three times a week for health card services, with one physician assigned to Fagaalu.

According to the director, DoH has only eight physicians — five of whom are assigned to Primary Care, while one physician, DoH chief public health officer Tamasoaali’i Dr. Joseph Tufa, who is based at the Fagaalu clinic, serves members of the public in need of a physical, and those needing health cards.

The other two physicians are assigned to the Well Baby Program at the Tafuna clinic and the DoH Behavior Health. According to Motusa, there is one physician assigned to Manu’a for the clinics at Tau and Ofu islands.

He said DoH is looking at bringing on board five more physicians with a doctor recently arriving from Fiji and it will take about two weeks to process said physician for employment, as there are required background checks that need to be conducted before the doctor can start working at Primary Care.

Regarding concerns raised  by the public over long waits at the Tafuna clinic, Motusa said one of the physicians, who is an off island contract doctor, is on leave for two months. He explained that all physicians currently at the Tafuna clinic work together in serving the community.

He explained that any patient who shows up at Tafuna will be served, as the doctors do their job to ensure that no one is turned away or leaves without being seen. And during lunch time, a physician or nursing staff member must be on duty to serve the public. If there are two doctors on duty, one works while the other takes lunch.

If 4p.m. closing time comes around and there are still members of the public waiting, physicians and nurses continue their work until all patients are served and this is allowed by the federal grantor, he said, adding that there are only 32 nurses at DoH.