American Embassy plans Faleolo Medical Centre expansion

One of Samoa’s main hospitals servicing rural areas, the Faleolo Medical Centre, will be upgraded under plans announced by the American Embassy.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, the country’s new Chargé d'Affaires, Jonathan Lee Yoo, announced that the hospital will be expanded to enhance the capacity of health treatments for people in rural areas and the western side of Upolu.

“The Faleolo Hospital was constructed in [part] with the U.S.A.’s assistance and we’re planning [and] trying to see what can be done to expand that facility and to make it more helpful to the villages and the rest of Upolu,” he said.

Mr. Yoo, who has been in Samoa for a month, said the hospital expansion project is one of his top priorities during his posting to Samoa.

But before the expansion work is complete, the United States Agency for International Development [U.S.A.I.D.] already has a medical team patrolling both Upolu and Savai’i to assist boost the health of local residents. 

A preparatory local response to the pandemic has been and should be emphasised, the Chargé d'Affaires said. 

“U.S.A.I.D., that’s our only aid; the team is working with local [non-government organisations] to share information about COVID-19 [and] how to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“And so handwashing stations and water tanks as well as hygiene kits [are being provided].

“I think those three things are what the United States government [is] taking very seriously.”

So far, Mr. Yoo was impressed by Samoa’s efforts to become one of just a handful of countries to stay COVID-19-free. 

“It appears to me that people are taking the state of emergency restrictions very seriously, it’s been hard to find anyone’s complaints about it; I don’t think anyone is upset, and I think it’s really admirable that your country [has been] able to stay COVID-19 free,” he said.

The hospital was officially opened to the public in 2013 and hailed as a “milestone for health” by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

The facility is located across from the Faleolo International Airport with the U.S. providing funding of $2.83 million for the facility which serves mostly residents of Aana Alofi No.3, Aiga i le Tai, Samatau and Falelatai.

The Faleolo Medical Centre provides emergency and outpatient services, non-complex overnight admissions and maternal care. Mobile services operated from the facility include dental, pharmaceutical and diagnostic treatments. 

The then-American Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, David Huebner, acknowledged what was a joint project with the National Health Services.

"They shared our vision and worked with us hand-in-hand throughout the planning and construction phase, so it’s an honour to be here for the opening," he said.

The medical centre is also built on the site of land that was at the centre of an ownership dispute between residents of Satapuala and the Government.

The Satapuala Village Council claimed that the contested land belonged to them and was unlawfully sold during Samoa's period under German and New Zealand colonial administration.

But the Supreme Court ruled that, prior to 1889, there was no legislation controlling or prohibiting the alienation of land in Samoa.

The Supreme Court upheld a strike-out motion by the Samoa Trust Estate Corporation [S.T.E.C] against Satapuala and also struck out the village council’s claim for the return of more than eight thousand acres of land at Faleolo opposite the international airport.

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