An utter waste of public monies

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here is the truth. When the Government through the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, talked up the merger between the National Health Services and the Ministry of Health, we said that the decision was yet another one in a long list of screw-ups by this Government costing poor taxpayers too much money. 

Let’s quickly refresh your memory.  In an editorial titled “Health merger: A brave move or an epic fail?” we said that there are two ways one can interpret this development. 

The first pair of lens can see that the government is learning as they go along and that the merger between the National Health Services (N.H.S.) and Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) reflects a government that is not afraid to make tough decisions when it has to. That’s the good news.

The second pair of lens would be a lot more brutal, which is the bad news. 

It could easily see that the merger done 10 years ago has been an epic fail and the decision today is part of a desperate attempt to avert what is ultimately going to be a disaster of huge proportions if this continues.

Whichever lens you choose and whatever view you subscribe to, the fact of the matter is that all is not well at the Ministry of Health. 

Why would they want such a drastic change if everything were all roses? You don’t need to be a “laui’a” to see that, do you?

We said at the time that it would be interesting to find out the rationale behind the separation 10 years ago. We also said that it would be equally interesting to know what they said, why they recommended the move and how much it cost.

Now the front-page story yesterday titled “$30 million on health separation under gun” answered a lot of those questions. One of them is the cost. Indeed, the Government ten years ago spent a whopping $30 million tala to separate the National Health Services from the Ministry of Health. 

And what has been the outcome? The picture is not pretty, we can tell you that much, judging from what has been said before a Commission of Inquiry, appointed by Cabinet, to consider a proposed organisational structure, for the proposed re-merge.

Last week, the Inquiry was given a picture of the challenges at the hospital. 

“These include issues such as doctors and nurses having to pick up trash on the floor when the cleaners shift has ended. This interrupts their work as it delays them from seeing patients who are angry and frustrated about the long wait.

“Then there are issues where medical records can’t be located; triage nurses running out of blood glucose test strips. When patients need to be admitted, there are no beds.

“The Inquiry was also told that human resources don’t follow protocols; there is poor monitoring in enforcement of working conditions, the non-existent Primary Health budget, shortages of staff, poor quality of service, disconnect, lack of accountability, inefficient health information system and more.”

There is more but we will stop here for now. You get the picture.

In the meantime, the Chair of the Commission, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, made some very interesting comments. 

“The separation (11 years ago) was to address shortcomings in the health system. And if this is a functional analysis and assessment in 2017, it tells me that’s it been a waste of time in the last 11 years,” she said. 

She added that the quality of the health service affects how the poorest members of the community are treated.

 “Apparently we have appeared to have wasted a hell of a lot of money to separate health services over an 11 year period since I have been involved there appears to be absolutely no difference. 

“Why? Because this is exactly what was presented as the problems to the N.H.S. force in 2007.

“It tells me, the environment is a poor environment, doctors, nurses, radiologists, clerks, cleaners…so my question is what in this proposed structure is going to change that? Because if we are to go on and spend another $30 million on merging, what is the point if the health outcomes remain exactly the same?”

Well let’s hope there is method to thy madness this time around. 

Otherwise this will just be another futile exercise that will end up being another utter waste of public funds. What do you think? 

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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