The government is sending Samoan patients who cannot be treated in Samoa to India.
And although India is much further than New Zealand where patients are usually referred to, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said it is a lot cheaper.
“This is the new process we have now,” said Tuilaepa.
“We know it’s far, but it is cheaper. Whenever we need to send a patient to India for treatment, they will have money for their fares, not only for the patient, but also their family members and where they will stay.
“The family members who wish to accompany the patient will stay at a hotel until the patient is well and able to fly back home.”
Tuilaepa praised the quality of doctors in India.
“If you go to New Zealand, you will see that a lot of doctors there are Indians. Even when we have specialists from overseas visiting our hospital, most of them are Indians.”
He added that the new process would save money for the government, which means that more opportunities will be available for patients to be sent overseas.
“This is a great relief for us as it will save money. To tell you the truth, it is more costly to send patients to New Zealand than India.”
Tuilaepa said the same process will apply for selecting the right patients to be sent overseas.
“A medical team will have a look at the patient and see if they really need medical treatment overseas or not. It has to be approved by executive members and Cabinet.”
But that is not all, said Tuilaepa.
The government is also looking at bringing in more specialists from India to work in Samoa.
“If we can bring in doctors from India to work at our hospitals, our doctors can then learn from them by observing how they (Indian doctors) carry out operations.
“This is to avoid having problems that can affect people’s lives. For example, if they have a heart surgery, our doctors need to be there to observe how it is done so that they can also do it themselves.”
Asked if they will no longer send patients to New Zealand, Tuilaepa said, “It is close to $20 million tala to send people to New Zealand for treatment.
“If it is cheaper to send them to India, then why should we still send them to New Zealand?”
Questions sent to the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, were not responded to at press time.