Samoan doctors continue deployment

Samoan Doctors Worldwide Volunteer Service Group continue to mobilize since their first rotation of medical specialists to assist in the measles epidemic.

The group are Samoan medical practitioners in New Zealand and Australia and have one objective to help Samoa in the country’s hour of need. 

Between December and March this year, there will be seven rotations of Samoan medical practitioners volunteering their services at no charge to help in the recovery phase of the crisis, according to a statement released by the Government Press Secretariat.

The deployment will see 40 Samoan doctors working over 14 weeks, two weeks at a time from December 23 to March 31, 2020.

The Otago University’s Associate Professor, Associate Dean (Pacific) Health Sciences,  Faumuina Dr. Faafetai Sopoaga and Leota Dr Lisi Petaia, the Pacific Islands Mental Health Professionals Association (NZ) President, are the two behind the volunteer group and are leading the first rotation.

The other five doctors on the frontlines include: Moananu Dr. Karapeni Okesene Gafa; Dr. Letava Tafunai; Dr James Alesana Slater; Anae Dr. Neru Leavasa; and Dr. Rowena Peters.

To facilitate the rotation throughout the deployment period, the University of Otago has assumed the secretariat role, through their partnership with Samoa’s Ministry of Health and the National University of Samoa.

Out of the 40 Samoan doctors who have volunteered from New Zealand and Australia for the first deployment, at least half were trained at the University of Otago and five of the seven teams will be led by medical graduates from the university.

Last week Otago University’s Pacific Island Centre Student Services Manager, Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai hosted a prayer meeting at the University’s House at Papaigalagala to acknowledge the start of the three month engagement.

Under the “Samoa mo Samoa” flagship, Tofilau commended the Samoan doctors for responding to the crisis and reassured them that they have the blessings of their country.

The University’s local Graduates Body President, To’oto’oaava Dr. Fanaafi Aiono-Le Tagaloa was also on hand to pay tribute to the doctors.

The University has also offered the use of the Otago House, located at the National University of Samoa campus, for accommodation and as the local coordination hub for the period of their deployment in Samoa.

“We’re here to help with the shortage of medical personnel and relieve the local health care providers,” Dr. Letava Tafunai said in a statement issued by the Government Press Secretariat.

The daughter to the late Atoa Dr Simi Tafunai and Women in Business Development President Adi Tafunai, Letava is a proud product of the local education system, graduating from Samoa College and working for seven years with the National Hospital before moving to Australia.

Another doctor, Anae Dr. Leavasa from Auckland said he is ready to work and give back to his country. And on a personal level, his deployment was his Christmas present to his Auckland-based mother, Olita Senara Leavasa.

The expertise of the teams to be deployed over the coming months in Samoa covers a range of areas including surgery, medicine, paediatrics, public health, general practice, mental health and intensive care.

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