Government asks families to accompany elders home

By Talaia Mika 08 December 2020, 11:00PM

The National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.) interim Chair, Agafili Shem Leo, has again appealed to Samoans abroad to accompany elderly family members who are returning home on repatriation flights.

The appeal by the N.E.O.C. interim Chair on Tuesday comes on the back of another elderly person, who flew in on the recent repatriation flight home unaccompanied, despite the NEOC advising last month for the practise to cease as it only increased the workload of frontline workers.

“We again urge our families overseas to stop sending their elders to Samoa unaccompanied,” he said.

“The policies themselves are that they (elders) are not allowed to be repatriated alone without company and we’re surprised to see this continue when they know that they (elders) spend 14 days in quarantine.”

According to the interim Chair, they will review their policy as health workers insisted on leaving them alone in quarantine, but then had to offer them assistance.

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

Agafili emphasised that 14 days in quarantine is a long time, and officials are now tasked to move the elderly from one place to another on a daily basis, as no one has accompanied them on the trip home.

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

“Some elders can’t walk to the bathrooms alone so the nurses and doctors had to do the responsibilities which their children should’ve been doing,” he added.

For their safety, Agafili added that Samoan families residing in New Zealand should keep their elders, if they have New Zealand citizenship.

“But if they wish to return because that’s how our elders always are then make some arrangements,” he added. “Someone (can) come accompany them (to Samoa) and spend three or more months here in Samoa and we’ll make further arrangements after that.”

“It’s really a pity and an eyesore to keep seeing our elders returning home unaccompanied.”

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) Director General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, expressed similar sentiments last month when discussing the repatriation flights. 

He specifically made reference to people who are aged 60-years or more and travelled back to Samoa without a family member accompanying them. 

Nurses at the Faleolo District Hospital had to care for an elderly woman, 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 Leausa 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. 

By Talaia Mika 08 December 2020, 11:00PM

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