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NZ surgeons travel to Samoa on voluntary mission

Patients in Samoa were given life-saving heart surgeries this month by a volunteer medical team from New Zealand.

The National Health Services General Manager, Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe said 55 medical professionals, including surgeons, anaesthetists, technical and support staff gave up their own time and expertise to assist.

She said given Samoa has very limited resources and medical expertise in this area, the patients and staff were very grateful.

"Thirteen patients have successfully undergone heart surgeries in Samoa and are now in post-operative care," she said.

"People have been very grateful, and we are very very grateful with the expert assistance through this mission and the patients are doing well except for one that was critically ill but coming through. And we can't say any more than thank you. It has been very good. "

She said patients were carefully selected, as there were many who could have been put forward.

"We were also making sure that they are patients that have waited in the queue for a while and need treatment but couldn't be transferred immediately," she said.

"There was also a joint effort by both the New Zealand team and the Samoa team way before the operations to identify the appropriate cases. And they are young and old and male and female. "

Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe said the volunteer mission also enabled locals to save money by staying in Samoa and being able to be surrounded by family and friends as they recover.

Chair of the New Zealand-based Samoa Heart Mission Trust, Anae Arthur Anae, said medical staff voluntarily gave up their time and expertise to assist.

"Oh well it is one of those things that we know it's a very serious situation in Samoa and other Pacific Islands the number of people who die from heart disease simply because they can't afford to pay for the various kinds of operations we have," he said.

He said that there were many health benefits in New Zealand that many people in the islands couldn't access.

"If New Zealand didn't have the health system that we had, a lot of people wouldn't make it. And because we have a health system that’s free and lucky enough to get through the system and get a heart operation, well that is absolutely brilliant."

"We are a very fortunate and lucky nation of people to what our government and people do here, in comparison to other parts of the world," he said.

RNZI reports back in 2009, the Trust raised close to $40,000 for the mission but then the tsunami occurred and it took time to get the green light from Samoa.

Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe believed the delay was due to various things, including having to prepare for the team to come over, including equipment costs, resourcing, travel and accommodation.

She said they were now focusing on post-operative care for patients and some staff, with two cardiologists and some nurses staying on in Samoa for longer.

And she said that it was probably time to relook at getting the National Heart Foundation in Samoa up and running again, but it needs to be community driven.

Source: Radio New Zealand

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