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Front-line workers not paid promised measles allowance

No measles allowance has been paid to the nurses and doctors who worked on the frontline of last year’s measles epidemic, despite the Government saying payments had in fact been made. 

Several doctors and nurses working at the Moto’otua national hospital and others, who were posted in District Hospitals, told the Samoa Observer that they won’t be receiving the allowance.

Health workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media and feared career repercussions, said they had been looking forward to the extra money. 

But the workers’ testimony follows an announcement by the Minister of Health, Faimalomatumua Kika Stowers, that she had signed off on the approval for the payment of the allowances in June. 

“We were told the measles allowance is not for the clinical staff that dealt with measles patients,” said one of the doctors. 

He alleged that only senior Ministry of Health [M.O.H.] officials would be covered by the extra-hours allowances. 

“It is apparently for the Ministry of Health officials that covered after hours and worked during the time [of the epidemic],” the doctor said. 

“The doctors and nurses allied health workers won’t be getting anything more and have been told our normal overtime was enough.”

Another senior nurse also expressed disappointment at the lack of compensation for frontline workers and said that the M.O.H. did promise the measles allowance would be paid to the health workers. 

"Other service providers, Government officials [who] worked during the epidemic got their measles allowance," said the nurse. 

“It’s becoming the norm for us to chase after our pay that we are entitled to and benefits that our Government [has] been blowing the horn about in public forums.

“This is sad and you wonder why our hospitals can't keep our nurses and doctors, because they feel they aren’t getting the support they should get from the administration.” 

An email sent by the Samoa Observer to the M.O.H. Director-General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, last week seeking an update on the payment of the measles allowance was not responded to. 

In June during a Parliament session, Minister of Health Faimalo said she had signed an approval form for the extra measles allowance payout which was being processed. 

“The paper has been prepared and should be [ready] by this week, the list is now with the Treasury (Ministry of Finance),” said the Minister. 

She could not confirm how much the allowance payout is for the health workers saying she had already signed the papers and did not look into the details of the payments. 

The allowance payout comes nine months after the crisis which claimed the lives of 83 Samoans, mainly children, and over 5,700 infections across the nation.

The measles allowance is separate to the overtime payment paid to the health workers in December last year, which totalled $3.6 million according to Government budgets. 

Asked about the delay in processing the payments, Faimalo said the M.O.H. had other pressing priorities of allocating workers to district hospitals and in Savai’i with the coronavirus pandemic. 

“But that is not an excuse to hide behind,” she said. 

“We have to get it done and any worker would look forward to getting paid for their work and we are looking at that for future matters so that it does not happen again.” 

On Sunday, the Samoa Observer revealed that doctors working had not been paid their overtime allowances for up to four weeks by the Ministry.

It is the second time this year that doctors at the national hospital have had trouble getting their allowances.

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