Dialysis Unit goes beyond call of duty to help

Samoa’s National Kidney Foundation (N.K.F.) will open its doors to any dialysis patients, despite the fact they are fully booked. 

This was confirmed by N.K.F. Renal Services Manager, Christina Poloai, who said they were obligated to help any dialysis patient. 

Ms. Poloai was responding to questions from the Samoa Observer, after reports that American Samoa’s Dialysis Unit was temporarily closed and patients were flying over to Samoa to get their dialysis treatment. 

“I can confirm that one patient flew over from American Samoa for his treatment,” she said. 

“Due to confidentiality I cannot divulge his personal information; however I can confirm that he had two sessions done here before departing back to American Samoa." 

“Our dialysis clinic is fully booked as you are well aware that we have had to add another shift to accommodate the increasing number in May this year." 

“Nonetheless, we cannot turn away any dialysis patient; we are mandated to take any patient who needs their treatment.” 

She reiterated that N.K.F. will find a way to accommodate any dialysis patient who needs treatment. 

Samoa News stated the American Samoa hospital Dialysis Unit Manager, Olita Tafiti, has dismissed reports that American Samoa dialysis patients are flying over “are nothing but lies and rumors”. 

Tafiti confirmed that the Dialysis Unit had to stop operations on Friday, after tests revealed that there was chlorine in the water.  

Tafiti was home when she got the call early on Friday morning that there was a problem. Once contacted, she notified top hospital officials and the decision was made to close the unit down that day "for safety reasons, and because it is the policy already set in place”.

She said instructions were given to her staff to halt all treatment until she arrived at work. 

Once there, she retested the water and sure enough, there was chlorine in the system.

According to her, a safety check is conducted on the equipment every morning and then again every four hours thereafter. 

It was during the morning routine check that the presence of chlorine in the water was discovered.

"The problem has since been addressed and now everything is back to normal," Tafiti said, adding that David Johns of Water Solutions, the company in Hawai’i that installed the system and maintains it, arrived Friday night and after countless hours of cleaning, sanitizing, flushing, and testing, the regular dialysis routine for thousands of local patients has resumed."

"Everyone was advised — for their health and safety — not to come in and get treatment that day until the problem was resolved," she said. 

"Chlorine is good for killing bacteria but in this case, once it enters a person's bloodstream, the results could be devastating. The patients will get sick right then and there, and they'd end up in critical condition with all sorts of problems. It is something that could cost someone their life."

Tafiti referred to a 1987 case in Philadelphia where a leakage of chlorine affected 107 patients and resulted in the unit being closed down permanently.

When asked if it was true that several dialysis patients had to seek medical attention in Upolu, Tafiti scoffed and said: “Absolutely not”.

According to her, before a patient can fly to Apia to get dialysis, they must first obtain the proper paperwork which is prepared by her. 

She said only one patient had requested paperwork to travel to Apia but it wasn't because of Friday's shutdown; instead, it was for a family fa'alavelave.

Tafiti said it costs ST $1,000 (US $250) to get dialysis treatment in Upolu and most local patients who travelled to Samoa usually got their treatment before they departed the territory, and immediately after they returned.

"They just can't afford to pay the price being charged for this service in Apia," Tafiti said, adding that rumors circulating in the territory have stirred up unnecessary panic and worry amongst locals.

According to her, dialysis patients can go up to two-three weeks without treatment, if they follow their assigned diet restrictions.

As for reports that patients missed several days of their weekly treatments, Tafiti said this had been misinterpreted, as those on dialysis were usually scheduled to have three treatments a week and since they missed their Friday session, they were allowed to make up for it on Saturday; hence, giving them their three scheduled treatments.

Tafiti thanked her staff and others she referred to as "hidden figures" who played a critical role in the care and treatment of dialysis patients.

"It is a big job, and it's not easy," she told Samoa News. 

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