More help arrives as Samoa shuts down

Hawaii has sent sixty one doctors and nurses to Samoa to help fight the measles crisis that has already claimed 60 lives and counting.

The team has touched down at Faleolo as the nation goes on complete lock down until 5pm as the Government pushes through its mass vaccination campaign.

The streets of Samoa are deserted. The only vehicles allowed on the road are vaccination campaign vehicles. The Police are also stopping vehicles that are not supposed to be on the road and sending them back home. 

The team from Hawai'i is bringing 50,000 doses of the measles vaccine, for a 48 hour emergency aid operation during the measles epidemic.

The professionals are from the Queen’s Health Systems, the largest employer in Hawaii, which is compensating them for their time to come to Samoa.

Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle, the head of the Paediatrics department at The Queen’s Medical Center, said Samoa is experiencing a tragedy.

“Two to seven people are passing away every day. Their intensive care unit is beyond overflow. The Paediatric intensive care unit that is accustomed to taking two maybe four patients tops is taking 18 to 20,” she said. 

“They are having to choose which child should be on a ventilator, which children will get vaccinations.

“200 patients are being seen by two doctors in the Emergency Department that is now the only non-measles area to get healthcare, they are desperate need of emergency room physicians. 

“And in the outpatient setting, where we are going to have the biggest impact on this journey, is immunising up to 50,000 people in the next 48 to72 hours.”

It took just two days to organise the deployment, with a call out to willing participants on Monday afternoon. 

The team includes 50 nurses and 11 doctors from The Queen’s Medical Center, and will largely support the vaccination campaign.

They are bringing vital sign monitors, masks, gloves, blood pressure cuffs, disposable gowns, and other medical supplies.

A spokesperson for The Queen’s Health System said the organisation will reassess whether to send another group of volunteers to help, depending on the State of Emergency situation.

Jason Chang, Chief Operating Officer of The Queen’s Medical Center said everyone is feeling for Samoa at this time.

“We are sympathetic to the people of Samoa who are experiencing this outbreak,” he said.

“We wanted to help and we are in a position to do so.  The Queen’s Health Systems has a tremendous amount of caring people that wanted to participate in this medical mission.”

Hawaiian Airlines have added a plane to the efforts, transporting the entire deployment and supplies directly to Apia. They departed Honolulu at 2:30am on Wednesday (and landed around 9am Thursday in Samoa). The fuel is all donated.

Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Green gave a press conference regarding the deployment, saying he was amazed to see 500 responses from people willing to travel. 

“Our purpose is twofold: first in the short term, to provide immunisation so that we stop the epidemic of measles, and second a longer term objective to deliver healthcare they have asked for,” Mr. Green said.

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