Nursing manpower boost but are hospitals ready?

Last Friday families and friends celebrated the graduation of 132 nursing students to registered nurses at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa Youth Hall at Sogi.

It was a momentous occasion for the graduating class of 2019, many of them still reeling from working in the measles epidemic frontlines, having been plucked out of school by the Government to fill the gaps that appeared in the national hospital’s nursing roster when the outbreak was at its peak.

Working during the epidemic, no doubt, was a baptism of fire for the nursing students who rubbed shoulders with senior colleagues and other medical professionals from abroad.

The Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, congratulated the graduates in her speech last Friday as the guest speaker representing the Government.

"Today is the day of thanksgiving and praise because you all did a great job and you all deserve this," she said.

Nurses who toiled during the epidemic were also recognised last Friday for their life-saving roles and presented with gifts by Miss Pacific Islands, Fonoifafo McFarland-Seumanu, in partnership with not-for-profit group Brown Girl Woke.

"You guys (nurses) are the true heroes because you all did an amazing job when we were battling the measles last year," Fonoifafo said during the presentations.

We know the measles epidemic that struck Samoa and claimed 83 innocent lives, would have impressed on the new graduates the risks they face in their profession, and the need to be vigilant when it comes to primary health care.

The injection of 132 new nursing personnel into Samoa’s health sector would be welcomed by everyone, especially rural communities that continue to rely on district hospitals, which under a World Bank–Samoa Government project would have permanent appointments of doctors, nurses, midwives and environmental health officers.

But are our hospitals ready to take on these new nursing staff without running the risk of past health practices or lack of access to appropriate resources becoming a hurdle to the new graduates’ strive to give their 110 per cent?

We say this after publishing details of an internal staff-authored review last Wednesday into the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital’s paediatric ward, which outlined allegations of failure at the national hospital at the height of the measles epidemic.

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The report titled "The Measles Outbreak Clinical Plan" compiled by a senior member of the hospital staff revealed gaps in manpower, medication and resources at the national hospital. The gaps in the system were uncovered when resources were rearranged to make room for the increasing number of measles patients. 

According to the 12-page report, the decision to remove an unidentified child who was a patient in the paediatric unit to make space for measles patients, ultimately led to his death from heart failure. 

But the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) Director General, Leuasa Dr Take Naseri, refuted the allegations and claimed that such a report does not exist.

“The Ministry has not received such a report and has no record whatsoever of any report tabled with the Health Emergency Operation Center based on the timeline stated by the article,” Leuasa said, in an email sent to the Samoa Observer.

“To that effect, the Ministry will acknowledge and respond once we have been furnished with a copy of the report to ensure fairness. 

“For the record, the article has a lot of factual errors reflecting the lack of experience by the reporter.”

It is not the first time for Leuasa to come under scrutiny over his management of Samoa’s health sector and will not be the last so long as he remains the M.O.H. Director General.

But as the chief health advisor to the Government, the people of Samoa expect him to be on top of the challenges that the national hospital in Apia as well as the country's district hospitals continue to face.

We would like to think that a report compiled by a senior T.T.M. staff member, which exposed flaws in healthcare delivery at the country’s premier hospital during a tumultuous period, warrants the Director General’s immediate attention.

Crying foul after various attempts were made by this newspaper to seek comments from your office does not put the Ministry in good light.

Having said that, the newly commissioned 132 nurses would be beaming with confidence, as they look forward to their first steps as fully fledged members of the Government’s health workforce.

It is only fair that the nurses walk into a hospital with a conducive working environment, has high staff morale, be remunerated accordingly in line with their qualifications, and the health facility sufficiently equipped to enable the new staff to start using their life-saving skills. 

Have a lovely Monday Samoa and God bless. 

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