Health merge bill on Parliament agenda

The bill to merge the Ministry of Health and the National Health Services is set to be introduced in Parliament this week. 

The legislation seeks to amend the Ministry of Health Act 2006 and repeal the National Health Services Act 2014 and proposes to regulate the additional functions, roles and responsibilities of the Ministry of Health. It will also give the Ministry new responsibilities, functions and duties – due to the merger of the healthcare services and the administration – of the health service. 

Furthermore, the bill seeks to provide for the functions, roles and responsibilities of a director general and deputy director general of Health. The bill also give effect to the transfer of the role of the National Health Service to the Ministry of Health. 

In May last year the Cabinet appointed a Commission of Inquiry to consider the proposed organisational structure of a merger between the MOH and the NHS. The inquiry found that the leaders of the health sector in Samoa exist in a “state of warfare” and unless reconciliation is done between leaders of the “warring occupational groups”, the lives of members of the public will continue to be at stake. 

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A report to Cabinet titled “A Pressing need for Grace”, which questioned whether the merger can proceed under the current circumstances, has been submitted to Cabinet for its deliberation. 

 “A fundamental change in attitude of all health sector workers is the Commission’s own prescription for the terminal condition which the sector is currently manifesting, an attitude of selfishness and mala fides (bad faith), which lies at the heart of the conflicts and disagreements which has paralyzed the service for many years,” the report stated. 

At that time the Commission of Inquiry expressed serious concerns about the “existing discord between senior officers within Ministry of Health and National Health Service”, which it said compromised the ability of Samoa’s health sector to function.  

“The use of the health sector as a battlefield amongst senior health professionals, and the long standing conflict between doctors and nurses, is an abuse of their privileged position and a chronic waste of public resources,” the Inquiry found.

“(This comes) at a time when the public still languish for long hours to see the few overworked doctors and nurses at TT Hospital in Apia (which is apparently a luxury if you live in Savaii where there is no registered doctor available at any time). 

“(This is also happening in) a system where there are still shortages of basic supplies, and is both disgraceful and symptomatic of managers – who have misplaced their sense of responsibility and misused their time and public resources to fuel conflict – rather than focus on whether the public have access to efficient, clinically safe and humane care and treatment.”

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