No barrier to overseas transplant treatments: Director General

The Director General of the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) has said that there are no barriers to more Samoan patients seeking treatment overseas for emergency transplant surgery.

But he says they will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The M.O.H. Director General, Leausa Take Naseri, told the Samoa Observer that transplant cases were generally rare in Samoa, and so decisions to give patients access to overseas transfer programs needed to be reviewed by hospitals on a case by case basis.

“Every case is reviewed individually in terms of their benefits and not every cases are the same," he said. 

"If someone comes with his or her lungs damaged, and we find out that [disease] has also spoiled the heart and so forth then we’ll have to consider if they deserve to go or not.

“That’s the purpose of this program, to send people overseas for treatment. It’s what we call prognoses, to see what quality of life he or she can obtain after the treatment if she’ll still be distressed or improved.”

The Director General made the comments following reports on the case of Tali Jennie Sua, Samoa's first local patient to have a bilateral lung transplant through the Government's overseas medical transfer program. 

She was transferred to Fortis Hospital in Chennai India for treatment and said the scheme was highly beneficial, despite some public skepticism. 

"I know people have been talking and questioning the overseas treatment schemes whether it's safe or risky but my advice is to give it a go," Mrs. Sua said. 

"My experience was just a working miracle and I put my faith in the treatment as it was the only option I needed at that time."

Leausa said there is no reason to stop people from visiting the hospital and discussing their cases with the Health department. 

Mrs. Sua’s case was decided as appropriate on a range of criteria, he said, including her age (39) and her prognosis for recovery after treatment. 

“Some people might have the same problem but when they’re too old at about ninety-years-old, then that could also be a problem because most people die at that age and lung transplant in specific is very rare and hard to be treated with,” Leausa said.

“These are a few of the conditions on the criteria for reviewing cases for the schemes. I think we all are aware that organs like lungs are very rare to be dented. God’s creation with our organs is 100 per cent but this is one of those odd cases.”

Leausa said that the reason why Samoa does not have its own system for conducting lung transplants is because the need for such treatments is rare. 

“There are always some doctors that are doing training already but how many lung transplant do we do here in Samoa?," he asked. 

However, Leausa said Samoan doctors do have knowledge of the principles involved in transplant medicine and can advise patients on their suitability. 

“Thank God for these options like the scheme,” Leausa added.

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