Complaints against the delivery of health services in Samoa are not new. The Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, says they receive complaints on a daily basis.
“My office is full of complaints,” he said. “People are not satisfied with the service. They come to me, they go their M.P, and they go to the Prime Minister.
“In fact, there is something that I have been after for a very long time and it’s a major issue for the nurses to make sure that a mechanism is in place to address the complaints.
“Complaints are an important part of the service because that’s how we learn.”
According to him, under the new structure, the Ministry of Health intends to set up an effective system to address and act swiftly on complaints from the public.
The Minister was responding to complaints from a member of the public who questioned the standard of care provided by the hospital.
Tuitama said he is well aware that the health sector is lagging behind in addressing public complaints.
It is something that has been on the agenda to resolve by way of having an efficient and effective system in the hospital to respond to grievances.
“A lot of people are not satisfied with the service in many ways, but I found the majority of people and I’ve been outspoken about this out there. A lot of complaints are because the workers don’t have time to explain to the people what they are doing to them,” he said.
“Some people - yes I’m surprised about this too because I’m a doctor and I understand these issues. I’m surprised that some people who have serious illnesses or medical issues and they been to the hospital many times and yet they have not been told what’s wrong with them.”
From his previous experience as a practicing doctor, the Minister explained just how easy it is to provide a satisfactory service to patients, who in some cases, are left wanting after being seen by a medical professional.
“I get a report and I explain to them what I have and I tell them this is what they have done to you and this is what they are planning for you,” he said.
“And they understand and leave happy. This is a major part of the complaints from the public; it is not understanding the proceedings and what’s been done.”
Following the merger between the N.H.S and the M.O.H, Tuitama says they will revisit the grievances policy because the current one is not being followed or implemented satisfactorily.
“Of course there are some negligence in some services. There may be people who don’t have pride in their work and don’t care about how other people feel in the hospital, so one of the issues that we will really be looking at in this merger is how the grievance policy will work.
“We already have a grievance policy, but it’s not being followed or implemented. I put forward a vision myself that will establish just a small box office for a person full time there. It’s a cheap service to get.”
Tuitama understands the frustration that members of the public with serious grievances have, who feel they are not being heard and are not satisfied with the substandard services that they are receiving.
He would like to see complaints dealt with in the sector, rather than having people resort to contacting the media.
“What I’m saying is that when people get frustrated because they don’t have a place to take their complaints to, they go to the paper, they go to the television because they are trying to find an answer and they do deserve it.
“It’s a very important part of the service to manage the complaints.
“Ideally, it should be simple to call the manager on the behalf of the complainant. A lot of the complaints can be dealt with instantly. The turnaround time is important. Even with a written complaint, it should not take more than a week for a person to get a reply back.”