Associate Minister offers solution for doctors shortage

The new Associate Minister of Health, Tofa Li’o Foleni, is confident the chronic shortage of doctors in Samoa will eventually be a thing of the past.

Speaking on the sidelines of the General Practitioners Association annual general meeting last weekend, the Associate Minister said the doctor shortage crisis is not new.

But he is optimistic that him and the Health Minister, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, have a solution.

He said they will focus on students who are studying at the National University of Samoa's School of Medicine and training to become doctors.

“The shortage of doctors is not a new issue and so our plan together with the Health Minister is to address the shortage of doctors by focusing on the local students studying medicine," he said.

“We are targeting the development of these young students who aim to become future doctors to address the numbers of doctors needed."

Tofa and Faimalotoa took on the health portfolio as part of a Cabinet reshuffle last month and have assured the public that they will address the challenges the health sector currently faces.

Part of their new role is inspecting all the hospitals in Samoa to see challenges and to identify the needs.

The Associate Minister said one of the problems discovered is that the facilities in some hospitals were not clean and up to standards. 

“For anyone who begins a new role, an inspection of everything and assessments is done to highlight the problems so that we can find solutions for them and one of the problems we found was that some hospitals were not clean. There are some hospitals that do not have air conditioning and others had wards that were not clean.

“We have started targeting district hospitals both in Upolu and Savai'i and already gave the order to clean the hospitals and so it has been put into action.

“The most important aspect to consider is listening to the problems faced by our people and we also advised the doctors and nurses to work together and that to always keep in mind a person’s life is very significant,” he added.

The Ministry of Health Director General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, had earlier said that addressing the lack of doctors is part of the Ministry's strategy that they are now coordinating with the Ministry's Division of Public Health. 

He said the Ministry is working with the World Bank on a programme to dispatch multidisciplinary health teams to district hospitals. 

“We are now teaming up with World Bank in the project and one of the requirements is to have multi-disciplinary teams to man the district hospitals and this will include a doctor, nurse, district health nurse, midwife and environmental health, they will stay permanently, and contracted to run the hospital.

“We are working on it now, and we are very grateful to the World Bank for offering their assistance through the staffing and start off and also with the infrastructure – we are hoping this change will begin this year,” he added. 

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