High staff turnover continues to plague Ministry of Health

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia - Ah Tong, 26 March 2019

A high staff turnover continues to plague the Ministry of Health (MOH) with people resigning due to promotions and better salaries being offered elsewhere. 

This was one of the challenges highlighted in the Ministry of Health Annual Report for the financial year 2016–2017. 

According to the report, the challenge is that staff leave with skills and experiences that had been gained over the years, while working under respective technical areas within the Ministry. 

“The Ministry needs to ensure that there are succession plans in place, and that process is followed through so that there is sufficient time, dedicated to proper handover of duties and responsibilities. 

“In this case, there is minimum disruption to the services required by the Ministry and that existing staff are able to carry out functions with confidence.”

An increasing number of staff leaving the Ministry is recorded within the financial year of 2016/2017 seeing eight staff make their exit.

"The number of resignation and termination is twice the number as it was in the previous financial year,” the report noted. 

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The declining number of staff in the Ministry is not new and continues to have an impact on the health sector.

During a pre-sitting for Members of Parliament, to deliberate on the National Health Service Amendment Bill 2018, concerns were raised on the shortage of doctors in district hospitals. 

A summary of the pre-sitting quoted the MOH Chief Executive Officer, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, as saying the Ministry was discussing probable ways to tackle the problem of doctor shortages in the rural clinics. 

The shortage of doctors was an issue that has been raised in the past and had resulted in a strike in September 2005. About 33 doctors unanimously decided to walk out and not return to work, until the Government at that time addressed the issue of medical practitioners being under-paid and overworked.   

A research paper by Veronica Braden published in 2006 titled, “Current Issues in Healthcare in Samoa, Making do with what is available”, stated the Samoan Medical Association has never received a salary increase from the Government in July 2005.

“But the Government claims money was given to the Ministry of Health. Part of the doctors’ salary request was an increase of approximately $9,000  or the entry point salary i.e. from $21,000 to $30,000.”

The research paper further pointed out that the doctors also voiced concerns and frustrations that they were being over worked, putting in up to 50 hours of over time per week, and dealing with a doctor to patient ratio of approximately 1:4,000.

“This was mainly due to the severe shortage of doctors prior to the strike," the report stated.

“This shortage of doctors resulted from an increase in the number of doctors moving into private practices and going overseas, where both the hours and the pay are much better, but also because more and more doctors training in New Zealand and Australia are not returning due to the low salaries in Samoa.” 

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia - Ah Tong, 26 March 2019

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