Serious nurse shortage alarming

A nurse volunteer in the intensive care unit is seeing a profound shortage of nurses and is worried accidents are inevitable.

Paul McWilliam, who is an intensive care nurse and the owner of a medical supplies company, arrived in Samoa last week to loan three ventilators to the I.C.U, and has five more on the way.

He will stay in Samoa another three weeks to offer technical, educational and clinical support to an overworked team of nurses and doctors who have not seen a day off since the epidemic blew up in early October.

In just a few days of work, Mr. McWilliam has seen the staff shortage and is very concerned.

“The nurses are handling it very well, they are stoic and they release their heartache with humour. We have a bit of a joke around. It’s a dark humour and that is how we manage,” he said.

“They are very, very good, absolutely fantastic.”

He said ideally, every bed in the I.C.U. should have three nurses assigned to it so they can take 12 hour rosters with a back-up in case someone cannot work. 

With 12 ventilated beds in the unit, that’s 36 nurses for the one unit alone, and something Mr. McWilliam said is not happening.

“We have operating theatre nurses helping out looking after intensive care patients, and they are tired,” he said.

Asked if the staffing shortage could lead to accidents, he did not hesitate when answering: “yes.”

Through his own networks of colleagues and friends, 15 more nurses from Australia and New Zealand have put up their hands to volunteer. 

They have sent their credentials to the Ministry of Health for approval and are in the waiting stages before they can book their flights.

Since the State of Emergency was declared in response to the measles epidemic on October 15, there are nearly 100 extra people on the ground already ranging from nurses, doctors, logisticians and more. 

They are from New Zealand, Australia, French Polynesia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Some have come as official deployments from governments and others, like Mr. McWilliam, have come on their own. 

Another independent volunteer who came from Australia to support the mass vaccination campaign is a vaccination nurse called Lexy Carroll. Just a few days into her month-long stint, she was swept off her scooter in a hit-and-run incident in central Apia and was out of commission for a few days.

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