Absence of hospital worries mayor

The absence of a hospital on Apolima Island continues to be a worry for mayor, Leala Afe Solo, who fears a medical emergency could result in the loss of life.

The residents of the island, which is located in the Apolima Strait at the western end of Upolu, last had an island-based medical facility with a rotating on-duty doctor close to 50 years ago.

And Leala fears that the next medical emergency crisis that a resident faces could be life-threatening, as even the journey by boat to the Leulumoega Hospital Upolu is close to two hours. 

“We continue to face a lot of challenges, especially when it comes to emergency cases which require hospital treatment by doctors and all that,” he said.

“If a kid falls from a tree, he will surely die because not only we will be taking the boat to Upolu, and there is no close-by hospital at that side, so we’ll need to try and make it to the Leulumoega Hospital.

“But we all know that the Leulumoega Hospital often refers seriously-injured patients to the main hospital in Moto’otua so see how far that is for someone who needs urgent treatment?”

There have been cases on the island in the past of both young and old residents needing emergency medical treatment, according to Leala, and later dying due to the absence of a hospital.

The island’s isolation has worked in favour of the residents, such as during the measles outbreak last year, when a ban on residents travelling to Upolu ensured Apolima remained free of measles.

But this time the island has not been spared the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic with some families experiencing a drop in their income, due to family members getting laid off from work.

But remittances continue to play a significant role in ensuring families are able to get through the day with Leala revealing that 90 per cent of the island’s families rely on financial assistance sent by their relatives living abroad. 

He said currently Apolima has close to 300 residents comprising 15 families who have learnt to live within their means and continue to maintain their traditional way of life.

The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa is the only church on the island with the village mayor revealing that it has become a place of worship for everyone.

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