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DoH looking to send a team to StarKist to deal with health card issues

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua [SN file photo]
Turns out, the limited number of people served is due to restrictions from the LBJ lab

The Department of Health 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.

Samoa News reported earlier this month that, based on eyewitness reports, some 200 people — some of them there since 4a.m. — were at the clinic on Jan. 3rd and police were called by DoH staff, because many of them refused to go home, after DoH accepted only 20 applicants — as required by their policy, serving health card applicants only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The long wait and limited number of people seen three days a week for health cards, was among the many issues covered during a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing yesterday, chaired by Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua, following concerns raised last week by some senators.

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua explained during the hearing that the Fagaalu clinic is not yet officially opened but DoH chief public health officer Tamasoaali’i Dr. Joseph Tufa wanted to open the clinic to serve members of the public in need of a physical, especially those needing health cards for StarKist Samoa.

He said the cannery had taken a break — referring to the three-week end of the year shutdown with production resumption on Jan. 15th — and employees were informed in advance that before returning to work, they needed to get a physical and renew their health cards.

However, he claims that many of the cannery workers, as soon as the three-week break started, headed to Samoa to visit their families and returned just in time for production to resume.

Motusa believes the overcrowding occurred because many cannery workers, returning from Samoa, all showed up to get their physicals and health cards at the same time.

The DoH director added that currently, many members of the public, including student athletes, are showing up to get their physicals as well, and others are seeking health cards too.

He apologized to the public for the inconvenience.

(Among those caught in the crowd earlier this month were food handlers from local eateries and restaurants.)

Motusa said the number of people accepted at the clinic for physicals is the number set by the LBJ laboratory, which conducts testing. (Samoa News confirmed this last week, after a cannery worker was told that the lab can only accept a certain number lab tests.)

Motusa said Tamasoaali’i and his team are working on resolving this particular issue.

Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai suggested that DoH look at solutions to resolve the overcrowding, so people don’t have to wait long, as some of them — according to reports — were in line since 4a.m. but when the clinic closed, many of them refused to leave.

The DoH director revealed that he met last Saturday with StarKist official Taotasi Archie Soliai and a decision was reached, that discussions will be held with Tamasoaali’i to send a Health team to the StarKist plant between 4p.m. to 6pm, or on the weekend, to serve the many cannery workers seeking health cards.

He said StarKist has complained that when employees go to the clinic for their health cards, they don’t return to work. He is hopeful that sending a DoH team to StarKist will reduce the number of people showing up at the Fagaalu clinic.

Samoa News has learned that in the past, DoH used to send a team to StarKist to deal with health card issues, to make the process easy so cannery workers wouldn't have to go to DoH and end up waiting in long lines. However, the process hit a snag when questions were raised about how the lab tests were being done and who was getting paid to do them.