Can someone explain?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Let’s be totally frank about this one. The idea that someone had worked at the nation’s busiest hospital for more than 19 years as a “doctor” before it was discovered he is only “a traditional healer” is not just alarming; it is absolutely shocking. 

Anywhere else, there would be widespread outrage. But here “in paradise” we hope this case will not just slip by the radar as just another case of “only in Samoa.”

Folks, this is the stuff that deserves an Inquiry. Heads should roll. 

We are not medical experts but even we know there is a gulf between a “certified physician” and a “traditional healer.” 

This is serious. We are talking about people’s lives here. 

On the front page of the Sunday Samoan, a story titled “Council revokes doctor’s license, patients in limbo” raised alarm. And rightly so. 

According to the Chairman of S.M.A, Leali’ifano Dr. Iopu Tanielu, Dr. Lee, who is a Chinese national, cannot work at the hospital anymore as a doctor because he is a “only a traditional healer.”

“We have concrete evidence,” Leali’ifano delcared. “The certified documents we have is evidence that Lee is not a certified physician.” 

With that said, will it be correct to say that 19 years members of the public have been misled? 

Asked why it has taken nearly 20 years for the Council to pick this up, the Chairman said: “Yes, it’s true Lee has been working for a very long time but he was registered by the previous Medical Council. 

“There were some problems that arose which led to the Council to investigate. We also sought the legal opinion of the Attorney General on this matter.” 

Now if only Lealii’fano would go further to elaborate on what those “problems” were. It would also be interesting to see the legal advice from the Attorney General. 

Alas we are not able to access these. Assistant Attorney General Galumalemana Noumea L. Teueli denied the request when she was asked.

“The legal advice is confidential information and cannot be disclosed,” she said, “nor can we comment on anything else pertaining to the said advice as that would breach our duty of confidentiality to our client.”  

Now back to Dr. Lee, he is obviously an unhappy man. 

“I feel sorry for my patients,” he said. “But I don’t know, all these Samoan doctors ganged up against me.” 

He added that there have been a lot of unfounded allegations against him. 

“I have been accused of malpractice and investigations were underway but that was it, nothing more.” 

Dr. Lee went on to reveal that one particular Board member wrote to him regarding a “wrong diagnosis.”

 “Who is this doctor? He’s just a regular doctor and I don’t answer to him, he’s not my boss.”

Sometime later when Dr. Lee received his termination letter, he said he threw it in the rubbish.

At this point, some of us might be wondering how did Dr. Lee start at the hospital? Well in 1995 he arrived as an Aid for the Chinese government. 

“It was in 1998 when I started working in the Medical Ward and over the years I was the only Neurologist left. Even when I was terminated from the hospital, there was no other Neurologist.”

A Neurologist by the way “treats disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, such as: Cerebrovascular disease, such as stroke. Demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis.”

Whatever it is, Dr. Lee is obviously well liked by his patients.

One in particular who had a stroke 10 years ago is unhappy about his treatment. 

 “I have been going to the hospital three times already to try and get another prescription for my medication but I was turned away because Dr. Lee is no longer working,” he said. 

“He’s the only Neurologist that’s currently working at the hospital and it’s disturbing because this deals directly with my health. Life is health and health is life, so what about other patients who suffered strokes and have worse conditions than me... how are they coping with it?”

To be fair to the doctor in question, Dr. Lee, let’s acknowledge all his good work over the years. In a country where the chronic shortage of health workers, especially doctors, is a major issue, we cannot ignore the fact Dr. Lee has helped a lot of people.

But if the claim by the Samoa Medical Council (S.M.C) as to their reason for revoking his license is anything to go by, someone in the Ministry of Health should tell us how on earth this was allowed to continue for nearly 20 years. 

What is going on folks?

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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