National Health Services To Be Corporatized In Samoa

admin's picture

Concerns recently raised over potential rate increases

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, August 26, 2013) –General Manager Leota Laki Sio has confirmed rumours Samoa’s National Health Service (NHS) will become a fully corporate body.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer on the weekend he was asked if the service is being turned into a State Owned Enterprise (SOE).

"The NHS is basically already an SOE in some sense," he responded.

"That is the reason why they created an Act so that it is a service provider for health."

"It is already an SOE under that Bill. The only difference is that there are certain parts of the current Act that doesn’t really allow the NHS to be a fully corporate body.

"But the amendments in the (proposed 2013) Act will then allow NHS to function as a fully corporate body."

He was responding to criticisms in an anonymous letter handed to Samoa Observer last week.

The writer, who did not want to be named, claimed that a move towards full SOE status would put profits ahead of a focus on people and health.

Their concerns follow increases to charges at the hospital in June of up to 102% - and more recent news that other government ministries, like the Ports Authority, also want to increase fees, by as much as 2,000 percent.

And the concerns about government looking for extra income is reinforced by the latest quarterly statement from the Reserve Bank, which saw the government balance sheet shrink from SAT$29 million [US$12.3 million] in June last year shrink to SAT$17 million [US$7.2 million] this year.

However Leota says that even under the law changes Health will still have to maintain "social responsibility" towards the people of Samoa.

Under the current 2006 NHS Act, the Service has a board to which the General Manager is accountable, this is consistent with other SOEs such as the Samoa Water Authority.

Leota says the 2013 Bill has had its second reading in the House and is currently sitting with the Bills Committee awaiting its third reading.

"The passage of the Bill goes after the second reading it goes to the Bills Committee and then they invite the public to air their view on it," he said.

"So it is on track to be on its third reading sometime when the Bills Committee is finished with that process."

When questioned what this would mean to hospital fees and charges, Leota said there is still protection within the Act to ensure NHS maintains its social responsibility to the public.

Part VII of the 2006 act discusses the fees and charges that the public currently pay to the NHS and states that the (Health) minister is to determine the costs.

"The Minister by Notice may determine fees and charges concerning any matter under or concerning this Act and for any goods or services provided by the Service," the Act reads.

"Or for any goods or services funded by or through the Service and provided by another person or body, and Provide for the time and manner of payment of any fee or charge determined under this section.

"The Minister shall consult with the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry, the Board, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance, concerning any proposed fees and charges and their anticipated effects and consequences.

"Subject to section 21, any fee or charge determined under this section shall be nonrefundable unless the Minister determines otherwise.

"Any Notice under this section shall be published in Samoan and English in the Savali and one other newspaper circulating in Samoa."

Leota says this section of the act does not allow the NHS to take control of the fees and charges.

"So for example things like fees and charges are also not only goes to the board but it also goes to the minister and to the cabinet," he said.

"Therefore the NHS with regards to fees and charges doesn’t have a full mandate to approve the fees and charges.

"I guess it’s because 95 percent of the budget comes from government at present so therefore the rationale behind it is that health will basically be subsidised like what is being done at the moment."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment