Take care of vital medical equipment to save lives
The timing of the commissioning of the $2 million oxygen generation plant at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital on Thursday couldn’t have been better.
You have to listen to a speech by the Minister for Health, Valasi Tafito Selesele, at the official opening of the plant in order to get a picture of how the lack of oxygen generation capacity at the national hospital over the years impacted on the health outcomes of Samoans.
“Since the late 1990’s we had solely relied on an oxygen plant with a re-filling capacity of only 30 to 50 large oxygen cylinders per day,” he said.
“As some of you may be aware, since 2019 the Ministry of Health has had to [resort to] the transporting of oxygen cylinders in part to Pago Pago via sea freight for refilling there, due to our greatly reduced capacity.
“This new oxygen [generation] plant ensures sufficient capacity of refilling up to 200 oxygen cylinders per day.”
The total funding by the New Zealand Government was over $1.07 million which covered the procurement, installation and commissioning of the plant and included maintenance and training of M.O.H. personnel. Samoa contributed $996,942.71 for the building that houses the plant which together with funding from New Zealand put the total cost of the project at $2 million.
For a country currently in the throes of a COVID-19 outbreak, which continues to see daily increases in community cases and recorded 24 deaths, Thursday’s official opening of the plant will immediately boost the Ministry’s capacity to produce medical oxygen which will be a lifesaver for those in need. This would be the case for patients diagnosed with severe symptoms of coronavirus, who need to be managed with oxygen or others suffering from respiratory diseases.
Thanks to Samoa’s high COVID-19 vaccination rates targeting the various eligible population categories, and the importation of a less severe form of the virus in Omicron, we did not experience the severe form of the infection like other parts of the world that led to a shortage of medical oxygen and the loss of thousands of lives.
But we must not rest on our laurels and should take this opportunity to thank the New Zealand Government for its foresight in funding maintenance and training of M.O.H. staff who are now tasked with ensuring its upkeep. Regular maintenance of medical equipment and healthcare infrastructure is essential as it translates to saving lives. The two-year partnership between the Samoa and New Zealand Governments, which culminated with Thursday’s official commissioning of the plant, should be commended due to its long-term impact on Samoa’s health outcomes going forward.
On that note we hope the concerns expressed recently by the Minister for Public Enterprises, Leatinuu Wayne So’oialo, following his discovery that the Accident Compensation Corporation-purchased US$1.5 million CT-scanner is still sitting in a container since its delivery in March this year is addressed.
“It’s placed in a container exposed to the heat when it should be in an air conditioning room,” the Minister said.
“I had raised this with the Ministry of Health during the visit because these are very expensive machines…mind you the charge for container detention is also accruing.”
The A.C.C. paid US$1.5 million for the machine from a company in Shanghai, China.
Irrespective of an explanation by the M.O.H. on the delay in preparing the CT-scanner’s storage room at the national hospital, Samoa’s tropical climate that can see temperatures go high as 30 ºC on a hot day is no friend of sensitive state-of-the-art imaging equipment. Therefore, Minister Leatinuu has every right to be concerned about the heat due to the medical equipment’s continued storage in a container after two months.
For every day the storage container packed with the CT-scanner continues to accrue cost, those costs get to be passed on to the 200,010 population of this nation as the custodians of Government entities such as the A.C.C. who are paying the storage cost using public money.
Let us take care of vital life-saving medical equipment and healthcare infrastructure and do not take for granted donor-funded or publicly-procured assets that in the end contribute to the long-term wellbeing of citizens.
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