Overseas medical treatment scheme on hold
Continuing a scheme allowing Samoans in desperate need of lifesaving medical treatment is out of the Government’s hands, the Prime Minister has said.
In a press conference on Wednesday, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said the decision to take Samoan patients overseas for treatment is entirely dependent on the country’s overseas partners.
The Prime Minister noted that border restrictions associated with the coronavirus were adding complications to the scheme, which operates in New Zealand and India.
“That matter is not something we have control over,” he said.
“As we know at the moment, only the New Zealand citizens are allowed to be taken [for overseas treatment] but otherwise, it would require the continuous urging of New Zealand, because unless they say yes, we cannot do anything.”
Currently, Samoa transfers patients on a case-by-case basis to either New Zealand or India for treatment for serious medical conditions.
In 2017, Samoa signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Fortis Hospital in India and the Government.
Last September, the Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, said the increasing use of unbudgeted funds for the Overseas Medical Treatment service was a growing concern that required a greater focus on preventative healthcare from the Government.
According to the Ministry of Health Director-General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, the Fortis Hospital is the second most technologically-advanced hospital in the world.
“Overseas Medical Treatment is an ongoing health financing issue,” Leausa was quoted as saying at the time.
“The high cost of overseas treatment and limited resources of the Government through the Ministry of Health has meant the Government has to look at Alternative Services or options for Overseas Treatment.
“The arrangements and the processes for sending patients to India follow the Overseas Treatment Scheme policies.”
The M.O.U offers the opportunity for “high risk” patients to be able to travel to India for medical treatment.
According to Government financial statements, a total of $13 million was spent on the scheme for the 2017-18 Financial Year, compared to its initial budget allocation of $6 million.
$11 million was allocated for the scheme in 2014-15; $2.5 million in 2015-16; $5 million 2016-17; $6 million in 2017-18 and $8 million in 2018-19.