Workforce loss is top challenge for Pacific health | Samoa Observer
Updates / News, 17 Apr 24
The biggest challenge faced by Pacific nations in maintaining consistent public health is the loss of its workforce says Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the Pasifika Medical Association Group, Debbie Sorensen.

In an exclusive interview with the Samoa Observer, Mrs. Sorensen who was the advisor at the Pacific Heads of Government Meeting held in Samoa said many Pacific island nations lose their workforce to New Zealand and Australia.

"All you have to do is look at what's happened with the RSE workers but also in the health sector, we're losing nurses and doctors all the time," she said.

"It might be some other government agency like the Public Service Commission decides how people are paid so the workforce is an ongoing challenge and we are required to develop solutions ourselves because we can't expect outside people to build these solutions for us."

Rising cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were also brought up at the talks. Mrs. Sorensen said the Pacific needs to share what's the latest best practice.

"So for the Ministry of Health here in Samoa, for Aiono, the challenge is, how do you get your standards up and make sure that they stay there," she stressed.

Two other problems the Pacific continues to face are the conditions of the hospital facilities and the shortage of medical supplies which the C.E.O said is not limited to Samoa.

"It's a constant challenge in the region and all Pacific countries because we don't have the money to build new hospitals. We just don't have that capital base and so I think it's a real challenge for all governments.

"It's not an uncommon thing, and a lot of facilities in around the region are in different states but slowly they're being rebuilt and so that's really the thing to take a consistent thing.

"So you know for example, at the hospital you might need to redevelop one unit and then move on. You don't have to build a hall or whole thing at once, you could just do it like that.

"And this is the same issue we have in New Zealand. Middlemore Hospital is in a shocking state and needs redoing so it's not different and I think that's the helpful thing about having New Zealand and Australia at this meeting because the things are the same in New Zealand and Australia."

The shortage of medical supplies is all around the Pacific according to Mrs. Sorensen and it was made worse with the Covid lockdown.

"Pretty much for three years so medical supplies were rationed and they were short and I think it's only just now, a year later that countries are getting back on their feet," she said.

"But again it's a matter of the health financing. Health would take as much money as you want to put into it so governments could just pour money in and there will still be more to do but it's working out what are the essential things.

"What are the essential medicines are really important because there are new medicines now on the market that will save people's lives and will make people better and healthier and all of those things.

"Things like equipment will mean that people will get better services. I was just talking to someone the other day and he came to my office. He was talking about a mammography machine.

"That would help identify women who need further investigation and breast cancer is one of our biggest problems and keeping up with technology is probably going to be the answer and our hospitals here and in the region are in the process of that transition.

"We've had largely colonial hospitals for vulnerable people and it's that transition to new technology and we've had a conversation this morning and how you use all of that stuff."

Mrs. Sorensen acknowledged the Samoan nurses and doctors for doing a fantastic job adding that there are two things, one is about the facilities and the other thing is about clinical care.

The 15th annual forum is a three-day meeting that brought to Samoa 13 Pacific Heads of Health from American Samoa, Cook Islands, CNMI, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

Source | Samoa Observer