Frontline Healthcare Workers on High Alert following First Covid-Related Death

Lufilufi District Hospital Photo: MOH

Saturday 2 April 2022, Apia Samoa. Following Samoa’s first covid-related death registered at Lalomanu District Hospital on Wednesday, Acting Director General of Health has given reassurance that frontline medical staff are on high alert to maintain and improve the delivery of patient care across Samoa.

Frontline healthcare workers on duty at vaccination and testing sites. Photos: MOH.

Seiuli Dr Glenn Fatupaito, Samoa’s head of Clinical Services who has served in the Ministry of Health since 2009, replaced Tagaloa Dr Robert Thompsen as Acting Director General on a rotational basis earlier this week.

In relation to Samoa’s first covid-related death, Dr Fatupaito says there were several factors reported which have been thoroughly assessed by the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) team that includes the leadership of the Ministry. “We meet every afternoon at 4pm to assess the situation in Samoa from reports that come in, and make sure we are reflecting daily, on any issues that may arise,” he said. “Cases such as Samoa’s first covid-related death is one such incident that is scrutinised to inform our adaptive approach moving forward,” said Dr Fatupaito.

“We go back to the drawing board everyday in efforts to ensure that we are getting ahead of any issues and also, to make sure that we are responding effectively to implementing improvements from daily learnings,” said Dr Fatupaito.

In response to claims from the older brother of Samoa’s first covid-related death that healthcare workers at a district hospital had sent them home, stating that the covid had passed, Dr Fatupaito expressed sincere sympathies to the family.

“Multiple comorbidities amongst the majority of the adult population in Samoa, means they can be presented with several symptoms. Being comorbid, the patient had several other medical complications and did present with non-typical covid symptoms such as diarrhea, for which he was treated,” said Dr Fatupaito.

Claims have also been made by the daughter of the deceased, alleging they were given the wrong prescription at the district hospital. “We heard the doctor telling off the nurse that the medicine given to my father was wrong, but we forgive them even though it hurts so much,” she told SGN.

In response, Dr Fatupaito says a formal complaint has not been lodged by the family, and it is difficult to respond to allegations or investigate further, if a statement of complaint has not yet reached the Ministry.

“We have placed all the events in the lead-up to Samoa’s first covid-related case under the microscope. We have taken all related issues to the drawing board and can assure Samoa that frontline staff are on high alert coming off this first case,” said the Acting Director General of Health as he called for Samoa’s support at this time.

“Your frontline healthcare workers are placed in the district hospitals, healthcare centres, attending to passengers in managed isolation, as well as carrying out their duties at vaccination sites and testing stations across Upolu and Savaii,” said Dr Fatupaito.

Samoa’s frontline Healthcare workers in PPE at Drive-Thru testing and vaccination sites. Photos: MOH.

“Please be assured that we are continuously reviewing our response to ensure the best possible service is provided for the people of Samoa. Our teams will continue to remain on high alert, and we ask for Samoa’s support at this time.”

In an earlier interview, Dr Fatupaito highlighted the importance of boosters at this stage of the community outbreak. “Please don’t be complacent if you are vaccinated; you still need to mask-up, sanitize, keep the two-metre distance apart, and make sure you get your booster if you’re an eligible adult…

“We tend to let down our guards when we’re around family, and when we’re in our homes, but that is where the virus can spread and that is how some of our healthcare workers have become infected, when they become complacent at home.”

Dr Fatupaito has stressed the need for updated boosters, to minimise the risks of the general population getting adverse symptoms.

“We may need to receive boosters every six months as a new norm,” he said. “Please remember that being fully vaccinated with a booster does not protect you from getting covid-19,” stressed Dr Fatupaito. “It will greatly reduce the chance of getting adverse symptoms, and greatly narrow the possibility of needing to be hospitalised.”