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Parliament hears grim warning

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Kidney diseases have been likened to a “tsunami wave” sweeping across the Pacific. If Samoa is not careful, the damage it is capable of inflicting could be irreparable.

The warning was given by the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, in Parliament yesterday.

He was speaking about changes being proposed by the government to the structure of the Samoa National Kidney Foundation (S.N.K.F), with the idea of turning it into an independent body.

Proposed in the National Kidney Foundation of Samoa Amendment Bill, the changes include the appointment of a Board of Directors who will in turn appoint a Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O).

According to the Minister, in 2005, there were only five kidney patients requiring specialised dialysis treatment in New Zealand.

Nine years later, 75 patients are being treated by the S.N.K.F at Moto’otua. And that’s not all. There are 300 patients on the waiting list.

This is why kidney failure has been described as a “tsunami” sweeping across the Pacific, the Minister said.

Tuitama told Parliament that changes being proposed would improve the running of the Foundation.

These would help to achieve plans such as enlarging the building at Moto’otua, taking the service to district hospitals and the acquisition of more equipment.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, welcomed the changes, describing them as “another step forward” for S.N.K.F. Looking back to 2005, Tuilaepa reminded Parliament about efforts to set up S.N.K.F.

“At the time, about five patients were treated in New Zealand. It was costing five-million-tala. That’s why the government looked at setting up our own.”

The first scoping mission to American Samoa was spearheaded by former Minister of Health, Misa Telefoni, Tuilaepa said.

They found that it would cost $40million to set up. A similar mission, this time headed by another Health Minister, the late Mulitalo Siafausa, looked at Australia.

“In Australia, they found help but it was also going to cost 40 million Australian,” he said.

Still, Mulitalo wouldn't give up. With the help of Papali’i Dr. Benjamin and through “special connections,” Mulitalo eventually met with the Minister of the Singapore Kidney Foundation.

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“The report that came to me was that when the meeting began, Mulitalo started weeping.

He couldn't find anything to wipe his tears so he just grabbed the side of his shirt and used it to wipe his tears.

Even the Singapore Minister cried. “In the end, the Singapore Minister instructed his Director, ‘don't bring anymore cry babies like this but approve what he wants.’

“That’s how we got our S.N.K.F. for a very cheap price.”

Tuilaepa said the service was vital for Samoa and the changes being proposed would improve the delivery of the service.

But Gagaemauga No. 2 M.P., Levaopolo Talatonu, was sceptical. He said the changes mean the government would need to fork out more money for the Foundation.

But that was not his only concern.

“By establishing more dialysis centres, it could encourage members of the public to continue to eat unhealthy food,” he said.

“We should pour more money towards prevention, that’s where we should focus.” Levaopolo advised the Minister to look at ways to prevent sicknesses that lead to dialysis treatment.

“The Minister should look at canned foods, especially from Asia,” he said.

“In most cases, there are no English labels whereby members of the public can determine what they are eating.”

Gagaifoimauga No. 1 M.P., Tuiloa Anetelea told Parliament that he is a dialysis patient.

“I’m not ashamed to say that perhaps I’m the only one in Parliament who has been affected by this sickness,” he said.

“The sickness is ticklish... “My plea is to please remember our hospital. All I’m asking for is just two machines for the hospital at Safotu.

“If you stay in Safotu and you have to make the long trip to Tusasivi, by the time you get there, you’ll have no more blood, it would’ve been spilled on the road.

“My belief is that if it wasn't for the dialysis centre at Moto’otua, our country would have been finished.

There are too many people with kidney diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Tuiloa said he gets treated three times a week. “It’s a nice feeling when you know you should have died and yet you are still alive,” he said.

“It’s a good feeling; you get plenty of time to sleep.”

Tuiloa said he has seen an increase in the number of dialysis cases in his village.

“Even in this house (Parliament), I see a lot of members with leg ailments, they should be treated. If not, they should be cut...”

Another H.R.P.P. member, Peseta Vaifou, said he supports the amendments but urged the government to place emphasis on health promotion.

“If this is not done, everyone will end up with kidney problems.”

Faleata West M.P., Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi supported Peseta. He urged Parliament to incorporate exercises into the working day.

“We need to change our attitudes to incorporate healthy living and training into our daily routine,” he said.

Satapuala M.P., Toeolesululu Cedric Schuster also supported the amendments saying bodies like the S.N.K.F. should be independent.

The debate continued last night.

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