Student nurses called up as hospitals overflow

Hospital staff are working extensive overtime and undergraduate nurses are being called into service, as the health system struggles to cope with wards overflowing with measles patients, the Nurses Association says. 

The count of suspected cases of measles has surpassed 700 and hospital facilities are overflowing, Nurses Association President, Solialofi Papali'i says. 

The excess demand against the shortage has called for students currently in the nursing programme to be put in service.

Papali'i said right now, 90 yet-to-graduate bachelor students and 30 diploma students are working under supervision to assist in the hospitals.

"At the current state, if you see it, it just hurts my heart," she said.

"Because the nurses are the ones that carry the burden, but the essence of all this is to rescue Samoa in its current state."

Earlier last month, Papali'i said currently about 350 nurses are on the country’s duty roll; compared against a country with a population under 200,000 the amount of work required is impossible to fulfil.

She told the Samoa Observer that nurses are now required to do 12-hour shifts, and nurses are doing more than that due to staff shortages. 

"These nurses are currently working up to 14 hours," she said.

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"And sometimes they are called back to help, but they have the heart to work willingly and we thank the nation and families for their support for the nurses."

Nurses are being allocated to the various parts of the hospital, including new units being set up to accommodate the growing number of admitted patients. That does not include nurses who are being sent to community hospitals, both in Upolu and Savaii, as well as those going into villages to perform immunisations.

"Right now the nurses are working according to the categorisation of patients,” she said. 

"From the critical patients to be admitted to [the Intensive Care Unit (I.C.U.)] and other children are now administered in the surgical ward, for those who need ventilation.

"[The I.C.U.] is full, and the tents set up by Australia also have people inside as well as the old Acute 7 [ward] is full."

Papali'i said as of Monday, 33 children were in the old hospital Acute 7. The children are transferred from the Paediatric ward after treatment and are seen improving.

Currently the old Paediatric ward is also being renovated to accommodate more over this week, she said.

The number of nurses is just not enough she said, they are constantly being relocated anywhere they are required to, to ensure there is always enough supply of nurses on site.

"I find myself shedding tears as I watch the nurses at work," she said.

"They cannot sit down due to the busy nature of their work in these situations, standing from the morning until the end of their shift to closely monitor the babies."

In terms of compensating for these later hours, she said that issue has been set aside for now and will be addressed by the Ministry later on while their commitment is focused fully on “rescuing Samoa".

The Ministry of Health was contacted about the Association's claims on Tuesday but did not respond in time for deadline. 

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