Injured fisherman to receive treatment
American Samoa will treat a fisherman with a severely injured hand who was at risk of being stranded on the high seas without medical attention due to coronavirus border closures.
The Indonesian national, sailing aboard the Taiwanese vessel Man Fu Tsai, had been in limbo for weeks after having pleas to receive treatment for his deteriorating medical condition rejected by both Samoas.
The vessel was initially denied permission to enter the Apia Harbour due to coronavirus restrictions.
As reported by this newspaper earlier this week, the man injured his hand with a fishing hook last month, an injury that has apparently grown more serious.
The vessel, Man Fu Tsai No.88, arrived in Apia on 27 March intending to resupply the ship and unload its catch. But they were unable to do so and the 14-person crew was rapidly running out of medical supplies.
The ship’s crew alerted the Ministry of Health to the man’s grave need for treatment but did not receive permission to dock. The crew instead set sail for American Samoa.
After waiting 32 kilometres out of harbour since the weekend, authorities in the American territory decided to provide medication for the man.
According to American Samoa authorities, he could reportedly require surgery.
“A large fishing hook accidentally pierced into his right palm of hand while working,” Indonesia’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, Tantowi Yahya, said.
“Since the vessel [began] moving to Pago Pago, the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington immediately contacted colleagues in the Indonesian Consulate-General in Los Angeles.
“The Consulate-General’s Consular staff is now closely monitoring the situation. We have received good news that the vessel is allowed to berth this afternoon in Pago Pago Port for the fisherman to receive emergency medical treatment.”
The development comes a day after the Government of Samoa says it was right to deny hospital care to the injured fisherman, a week after he first asked for treatment for his wounded hand.
On Thursday evening, the Government Press Secretary, Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga, stated that it considers the man’s injury to be “minor” and therefore the vessel was and will continue to be denied entry into Samoa.
"Health officials have also verified that they were only told by the boat's agent that a crew member needed treatment for an injured hand sustained for more than a week prior to their expected time of arrival. And the injury is minor," he wrote in an official email response.
"As a result and in the best interest to maintain Samoa’s security and safety from the COVID 19, the vessel was denied entry."
Nanai did not explain how the "minor" assessment was made and whether a medical professional was involved in making this assessment.
Under the amended State of Emergency Orders, ship access to Apia wharf remains limited to trade and petroleum ships, until further notice.
The Response from Government Press Secretariat is as follows:
Per your inquiries, the Man Fu Tsai No.88 is not registered nor flagged in Samoa. The vessel is also not licensed or authorised to fish in Samoa’s Economic Exclusive Zone. But it is granted entry only for transhipment purposes and to replenish supplies.
On March 24 the Fisheries Division received the boat’s manifest from her local agents which did not contain any information of an injured crew member needing medical attention as per normal requirement for all fishing vessels heading to Samoa.
She arrived in Apia on March 27 and not on February 27 th per your article.
Health officials have also verified that they were only told by the boat's agent that a crew member needed treatment for an injured hand sustained for more than a week prior to their expected time of arrival. And the injury is minor.
As a result and in the best interest to maintain Samoa’s security and safety from the COVID 19, the vessel was denied entry.
And you may also like to take into account that as of March 26 th per Amended State of Emergency Orders all foreign fishing boats are prohibited from Samoa until further notice contrary to what was published in the article.
Ship access to Apia wharf remains limited to trade and petroleum ships.
All others are prohibited until further notice.
To amend the orders will require Cabinet approval.