New Health Centre and Hotel Aiono’s home coming project

By Nefertiti Matatia 06 May 2018, 12:00AM

A new health centre and hotel was opened at Moto’otua yesterday. 

Alec’s Home Away and Health Specialist Centre is built and equipped with the latest medical systems tailored for the needs of the contracted professional health specialists. 

Owner of Alec’s Home Away and Health Specialist Centre, Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma, said this is his way of giving back to the community – having medical specialists available in Samoa. 

“I saw this piece of land for sale in May 2016 on one of my annual visits to Samoa and the dots connected. I bought the land and proceeded to plan a building that had both a health centre and accommodation mainly for medical students,” Aiono said. 

“Location is important. Being near the hospital but also being able to see the sea. We cleared the land in October 2016 and then got delayed by a few months as we addressed concerns by P.U.M.A. and a neighbour."

“This venture is very much a home coming - giving back project. I am hoping it is not a mid-life crisis project. I hasten to add that there many examples of the Pacific medical diaspora giving back to their Islands of birth. 

“The second medical school in Fiji, for example, was funded and created in Lautoka by the late Dr. Umanand Prasad, a Fijian national. The Viseisei Community Health Centre in Fiji was founded by Prof Rajat Gyaneshwar and Prof Naidu, fellow O&G specialists. Friends of Fiji have performed more than 1,000 heart operations in Fiji and the Pacific. 

“Many Samoan doctors have returned to work and some to live on these shores and many more are contributing in their own way, small or large, to our country’s development. I intend to tap into the good will of our overseas colleagues and the Samoan diaspora in many fields to assist not only with the Health Specialist Centre, but in increasing tourism and continuous development of our medical school,” he said.

Aiono mentioned the specialists will have access to zoom facilities to discuss cases with their overseas counterparts. 

“Access to wifi and internet facilities will be unlimited for the management of patient care. It is up to the local doctors and health specialists to make this work. We are being inclusive of all specialists in health. A physiotherapist and a clinical psychologist are health specialists.”

Aiono added Alec’s Home Away will have 23 hotel rooms with a specific purpose of increasing tourism and to support the health specialist centre, a commercial kitchen, a communal kitchen and two meeting areas and a pharmacy.

“We started building the foundation in March 2017. As the building progressed, I changed my mind and decided to aim for a three-star hotel. The only knowledge I had of what a three-star hotel should look like comes from having stayed in many hotels around the world." 

“The building changed function and purpose and therefore the builders had to make structural changes. Every time I visit home and checked on the project I would make changes."

“So here ladies and gentlemen, is what I believe to be an innovative model of private health service delivery. We have learnt lessons from the closure of Samoa’s only private hospital - Medcen. As Leoo John Adams said in an email, they were ahead of the times with setting it up and I agree." 

“We were not ready for a private hospital and we are still not ready for a private hospital. I have studied the private hospital setting in Fiji, the largest islands in the region and decided that we cannot afford a private hospital at the current time. 

“Suva has a population of 500,000 and a large expatriate population. We have only 70,000 in the confines of Apia. Suva has three private hospitals and only one is operating profitably. As much as we may want to, our small population and the weak willingness or ability to pay cannot sustain a private hospital model. 

“We must also be careful not to set up structures that can potentially divert funds from public to private care. Those who can afford private care should be given the option to purchase quality care locally.”

For Alec, there is a season for everything and right now it is his time.

“I paraphrase Jay Shetty ‘everything in life happens at its own pace’. It took until 32 for JK Rowling to be published for Harry Potter. Morgan Freeman got his big break at 52. Virgin was founded by Branson at 34. Albert Wendt returned to teach at Samoa College in 1965 and 23 years later, he was a professor at the University of Auckland. 

“Fatu Feu’u from Poutasi took 17 years to be recognised as a major artist in N.Z. Monica Galetti, Michael Meredith and Joe Lam worked in many kitchens for many years before they were recognised in N.Z. and the world stage as first-class chefs. 

“And Alec Ekeroma, well, he finally went home after his training at 59. Don’t let anyone rush you with their timelines because as Albert Einstein said not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that is counted truly counts. 

“And this is the most important thing, I want you to be able to create meaningful, purposeful fulfilling lives for yourselves and learn how to use that to make an impact and a difference in the lives of others. That will be true success,” he added.

By Nefertiti Matatia 06 May 2018, 12:00AM

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