Medical Association President sets priorities

The Samoa Medical Association has elected its new executive, with General Practitioner, Leniu Dr. Asaua Fa'asino, leading it into the new year. 

On Saturday the association celebrated its 73rd anniversary and annual scientific conference, where they focused on the COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response. 

In an ordinary year, the group’s conferences would run over several days but instead this year they had both the annual general meeting and conference in one afternoon at Taumeasina Island Resort. 

Leniu said her priorities are to strengthen the continuing medical education programme and its reach, improve virtual access to resources for the rurally-based doctors, and revise clinical guidelines according to the latest research.

She also wants to begin work to develop a headquarters for the association at the site promised to them at the far end of the national hospital in Motootua, and improve their website to increase access to online medical resources.

The Association will also help national efforts to digitise patient records and synchronise them with the national identification programme, so that patient history and data is available to whichever doctor, public or private, is treating them.  

“Hopefully that will help to not only make sure we have consistent record keeping linked to a unique identifier, but to ensure all doctors can access the same set of records for completeness of assessments,” Leniu said.

The new president said coordination and communication in the health sector will be her goal this year. The association has added “together we can” to its slogans to celebrate this mission. 

Outgoing President Fuimaono Dr. Aleki Fuimaono said 2019 and 2020 have been eventful for the medical sector, from the immense preparations for the Pacific Games to responding to the measles epidemic and now the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But teamwork amongst the members, and learning from old members of the association helped the first-time President get through the role and deliver where he could for the members.

He said among the associations work is to make life interesting for the medical professionals, offer professional development opportunities and a community to help doctors stay in Samoa despite the challenges of an understaffed and highly demanded of sector.

“With all the health issues we are facing, it is good we have two medical schools here. The main aim is to increase the number of staff,” he said.

“If we have the numbers, I am sure the service and everything will improve.”

Leniu agreed that having the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) Faculty of Medicine and the Oceania University of Medicine (O.U.M.) both in Samoa will help grow a young crop of doctors as the training will be more accessible, which will improve staff retention.

Both leaders of the two universities are doctors and members of S.M.A.: N.U.S Vice Chancellor Professor Alec Ekeroma and O.U.M. Dean Toleafoa Dr. Viali Lameko. 

The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s efforts to improve science education at the high school level should also contribute to more young people becoming interested in pursuing medicine. 

The sector also needs to look at career development and growing wages for the health sector, she added.

“A lot of the strategic documents are due for review, to review everything including salaries and professional development,” Leniu said. 

At the official opening of the S.M.A.’s meeting on Saturday, Minister of Health Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau gave the keynote address.

Chair of the Samoa Medical Council Motuopua’a Dr. Aisoli Vaai led the membership in a recitation of the Hippocratic Oath, an internationally used oath to uphold the highest of medical ethics while working in the field.

It is one of the oldest binding documents in history and is used by doctors, nurses and health practitioners all over the world.

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