Let justice take its course

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

On Thursday last week, a major development in the deaths of two babies who died after they were administered the M.M.R. vaccine at Safotu, Savai’i, emerged. 

After a few weeks of several investigations by different officials – including health experts from outside of Samoa - the Police and the Attorney General’s Office took the first step in what we anticipate will be one of many to be taken in the pursuit for justice over the deaths.

That step involved the filing of two charges against one of the nurses implicated in the deaths. The identity of the nurse has remained a secret up until now.

But Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, confirmed that the woman faces two charges, one of alleged negligence resulting in death and perverting the course of justice. These are very serious charges.

“It’s very unfortunate that it has come to this (given) what had happened to the two toddlers,” said Fuiava. “However, because it is now on the hands of the law enforcement we have done our own investigation and all the element of the crime has been satisfied and those charges were the ones that stood out.”

Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, added that the charges follow “swift and hard-working investigations by the C.I.D. section of the Ministry of Police both in Apia and Savai’i.

 He said: “The decision to charge was thereafter supported by advice and it is also confirmed by Police that investigations are still active and ongoing.”

Well since this matter is due before Court, we don’t want to delve into the details. Suffice to say, we believe a lot more developments will unfold over the next few weeks. 

You see, we don’t think we have seen the last charges in relation to this matter. There appears to be a lot more than meets the eye.

Now, a day after the charges were made public, another interesting development unfolded. This time, the President of the Samoa Nurses Association, Solialofi Papali’i, questioned the decision to file charges against one of the nurses.

“There are the two flat sides and the wheel in the middle,” Ms. Papalii said about the pursuit for justice and truth.

“We are so confused on how they were able to have charges, when results of the postmortem that was conducted by an Australian specialist is not here yet.

“Another thing is that they have charged the senior Nurse and yet there was a manager who oversee everything as well as other nurses that were there and yet she is the only one that been charged and held in custody.

“We were told that the nurse that is now in custody was the one who mixed the vaccination but we are not sure whether she was the one who mixed both vaccinations for both toddlers.”

Ms. Papali’i raises some valid points that should be taken into account. According to the S.N.A. President, the nurse who has been charged has 37 years of experience.

 “She is a very competent person and she is very honest with her work so I’m not sure what happened but within the association we were always told that if we weren’t sure of anything then we have to double check it and ask the doctors,” said Ms. Papali’i.

Well that might be the case but everyone makes mistakes. What is more important in this case is getting to the bottom on it and finding the truth so that it doesn’t happen again. 

Which brings us to another critical point Ms. Papali’i raised.  

 “When it comes to the caring of patients, doctors and nurses have to work together to ensure the patient are given the right dose or the right vaccination,” she said. “So there is a big question mark on how the charges were made when the Commission of Inquiry is not complete and most especially the post mortem result is not here.”

Again, the President of the Nurses Association raises another very valid point here. As far as we can see from an outsider’s point of view, the deaths of those two babies was the result of a systemic failure on the part of the National Health Services and the Ministry of Health. True that it was the nurses who administered the vaccination but there has got be a thorough review – and investigation – of the whole process, which led to the deaths before we can draw any solid conclusions.

Since this tragedy, many people have been calling for blood. That’s expected given the anguish, hurt and all emotions involved in such a very sad event. 

But let’s make sure we take a wholesome approach to this matter so that we don’t just scratch the surface and use one person as a scapegoat. 

We want the full truth, not half-truths. We want full accountability, not bits and pieces of it. And it must be done in a transparent manner because it will be such a critical step in restoring the trust and faith of members of the public in a health system that is very low on that at the moment.

In other words, let justice take its course and let the public hear the truth.

Have a pleasant Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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