‘People don’t just wait until Friday to get sick’

It’s the weekend once more. And while you are taking a breather and some time to unwind after a busy week, spare a thought for a young mother from Siumu called Fuatai Vaea Tupuola.

Fuatai is the mother who appeared with her baby on the front page of the Samoa Observer on Thursday with the story titled “Lack of doctors led to misdiagnosis – mother alleges.”

Her story is worth revisiting. We say this because we are quite certain she is not the only mother in Samoa who has had to experience what she went through.

In any case, Fuatai told us she took her two-week-old baby to the Poutasi District Hospital on Saturday 13th April. Her baby had a severe chest infection and was struggling to breathe due to persistent coughing.

As any loving mother would do, she took her baby to the hospital with the hope of getting some help only to be told that doctors don’t work on Saturdays. But that wasn’t the only problem.

“We were directed by the nurse for my baby to be given medicine,” she said.

"There were no doctors because at that hospital, you will only see doctors on Fridays but the rest of the week people are looked after by nurses.”

The baby did not get better and when Fuatai took her in again on Sunday, she was advised to just take the medicine. Still the baby remained unwell so that by Monday, the mother decided to seek medical treatment at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Moto’otua.

“We had to wake up early to catch the bus to town,” she said. “We did not have any money but thankfully the bus driver took pity on us.”

At the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital though is where this story became very interesting.

“The doctor, who we saw, immediately admitted my daughter to the hospital and directed for her to undergo tests and x-ray screening,” the mother said.

“According to the doctor, my daughter should not have taken any medicine. Instead (the doctor said she) should have been admitted to the hospital when she was brought in. Even though the medicine is useful but she is only a few weeks old and the medicine cannot treat her current condition.”

Now this is scary. We don’t even want to think about what could have happened if the baby had some of sort of life threatening reaction to the medicine.

And if the doctor said she shouldn’t have been given any medicine, what was a nurse doing giving medicine? What is going on here? Is this suppose to be the norm? Because it is just not normal.

You see in Samoa, this scenario is not confined to Fuatai and the Poutasi District Hospital. We see and hear so many similar cases from all across the country.

This is the picture of the health system today.

Although we don’t have the numbers, it would be interesting to find out how many of these decisions have been fatal and how often this happens in Samoa.

We say this because this 2019 and yet we continue to hear these horror stories.

The good news for the 26-year-old mother is that after they were admitted for seven days, they were discharged and the baby is doing well.

“I thank all the nurses and doctors at the hospital for their service,” she said.

“But I must stand firm that we need doctors every day for our district hospitals – because for some of us who cannot afford to travel to town and back it is a great hassle – what is the use of having a hospital without any doctors?”

And that’s precisely the point.

Fuatai’s 68-year-old father, Tiatia Vaea Tupuola, echoed similar sentiments.

“We are not discrediting the work by doctors or nurses, but we request their services as well not only for the hospital in town but closer to home.”

He added sick people don’t wait until Friday when the doctors visit Poutasi to need attention.

“If we wait until Friday, who will be blamed for any tragedies that may befall people who are sick while waiting for a doctor that comes once a week?”

Again, this is a very valid question. Which is why it is pertinent the authorities do not dismiss and ignore the concerns expressed by Fuatai.

As we’ve said before, we know Fuatai is not the only one in Samoa who has experienced this.

Now isn’t it heartbreaking that while Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration continue to preoccupy themselves with their petty and silly politics, people out there like Fuatai continue to suffer? And how many more lives need to be risked before this health system is finally fixed?

It sounds like the new Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, will need all her positivity and belief in the Almighty God when she enters her new office on Monday.

Have a beautiful weekend Samoa, God bless!

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