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Don't send your elderly unaccompanied: health chief

The Ministry of Health Director General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, has asked Samoans to reconsider sending their elderly family members unaccompanied on repatriation flights home.

The appeal from the Ministry’s chief was in response to a number of cases involving elderly citizens aged over 60-years who flew back to Samoa without a relative accompanying them on the flight.

During a press conference earlier this week, Leausa revealed that the recent repatriation flight had two elderly mothers who were not accompanied, which forced authorities to quarantine them separately. 

Consequently, nurses at the Faleolo District Hospital had to care for the elderly women, who needed assistance to do a number of things including taking a shower.

Leausa said the added responsibilities only added to the workload of the M.O.H. frontliners who worked round the clock, when the families should have sent a relative to escort and care for them while they were in quarantine.

The weak immune systems of the elderly also made them vulnerable to illnesses, which the Director General pointed to as one of the reasons why they should be kept abroad where medication and treatment is easily available. 

He added that they have seen sad cases in previous repatriation flights, where the elderly who would need assistance while travelling home, not being accompanied by a relative during the mandatory quarantine period. 

Interim Chairman of the National Emergency Operation Centre, Agafili Shem Leo, supported the call by Leausa and appealed to relatives to consider these factors before sending their elderly family members back unaccompanied.

He said it becomes a challenge for the local authorities when elderly people are put on repatriation flights without an escort.

Agafili pointed out that 14 days in quarantine is a long time and the local authorities are now tasked to move the elderly from one place to another on a daily basis because no one has  accompanied them. 

He urged the relatives of elderly people intending to return home to consider keeping them abroad in the comfort of their children where they are safe and comfortable. 

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