OPINION: What’s Health Services Impact from its share of the Stimulus Package?

“The $20.3 million earmarked to accommodate facilities for the COVID-19 ICU is indeed a substantial amount which is equivalent to about 30% of the annual health budget.” 

 

By Afi’a Tuluvao

 

APIA, SAMOA – 17 APRIL 2020: Public opinions expressed so far on the Stimulus Package seem to acknowledge Government for the initiative but in general not good enough. All agree that there should have been direct injection to support families which could have generated significant stimulus to the economy, as most of what is given will have a diminishing effect by the time it reaches those mostly affected. Time will tell.

It is interesting however to observe that the $20.3 million earmarked to accommodate facilities for the COVID-19 ICU is indeed a substantial amount which is equivalent to about 30% of the annual health budget.  It indicates the high level of fear our Government has for our health or is it their health given the unhealthy state of many Government officials.

The model of care appears to follow those adopted by the rich countries and the resulting statistics from these countries we are witnessing are frightening. It will certainly mirror what we witnessed during the Measles although on a more disproportionate level such that our population may disappear in no time if COVID- 19 lands in Samoa.

Primary Health Care is key to Sustainable Healthy Living

The PM has always made reference to using Common Sense and in this case the fear factor overtook common sense and it looks like he has been caught with his C-sense down. Unless we have a bottomless purse then this model is certainly not sustainable.

On the other hand, if Government is this serious on health care, then it should be able to spend a much bigger amount for Primary Health Care as this is the key to sustainable healthy living.

New Zealand with a population of 4+ million has over 1000 people affected by COVID-19 and yet less than 15 are admitted in hospitals while the rest are home treated. New Zealand has the lowest fatality rate in the world.  It is a very simple and logical approach and a major contributor to these results is due to good primary health programs.

Why not ask NZ for help? All you do is Skype Jacinda (she’s also on Twitter) and get the formula from her. Unless our PM is shy for many reasons especially when a young successful woman leader is working miracles for her country.

Last months Health Forum

E-health network and unused dusty old reports

By the way, our E-health network should be handy by now and given the massive amounts spent on building a responsive national IT infrastructure network, we should be able to link to at least New Zealand with ease.

The last time E-health surfaced was about 5 years ago when there was another study by a foreign firm and a local consultancy firm on the state of e-health and their report suffered the same fate as many previous reports on this same topic for the last 20 years now. Some people are lucky making money by just preparing unused reports and the worst part is they are still doing it as if it is quite normal and ethical.

Anyway, E- health should be resurrected and reports dusted and activated to support health services and even delivering simple primary health programs on FB is much more effective and expansive in coverage than the current bureaucratic and expensive approach. Technology helps address many challenging issues with health information, workers shortage etc. and it is working well in many small island countries. It relieves the public from watching images of tiring unhealthy health officials and politicians on the media. It is quite awkward when the PM or the CEO of Health are providing advice on TV on how to live a healthy lifestyle when it is clear that they are struggling for breath between words when talking.

Eating the Wrong Food and the killer NDCs

Lastly, I just hope that other important health services have not been neglected, especially NCD programs to combat what’s becoming the biggest killer in our country.

Dialysis is the end of the road for many Samoans in their productive years as a result of Non Communicable Diseases that’s becoming the biggest killer in our country

It appears that all focus is on COVID-19 and I am suspecting that NCD is on the rise especially when all or most of us have been doing since the lock down is eating and eating the wrong food. Turkey tails consumption has been on the rise and no doubt its flavour and taste is already a permanent feature of the consumers’ sense of smell and this commodity is probably one of those with duty concessions for the same reasons sugar and salt are treated and it’s not making any health and economic sense.

With the elections looming, our political masters do not care about the consumers’ welfare for obvious reasons.