For close to three decades, the first Samoan Paediatrician in New Zealand Dr Teuila Percival has spent most of that time at the coalface, working in South Auckland with Māori and Pacific children.
Born in New Zealand, Teuila is of Samoan heritage – her grandparents come from Ofu in Manu’a, and Puapua in Savai’i.
When a state of emergency was declared in Samoa during the height of the recent measles epidemic, the Middlemore Consultant Paediatrician returned to her grandparents’ homeland to help those in need.
Teuila, who is married with three children and one grandson, was part of the first New Zealand Medical Assistance (NZMAT) team Alpha, which was deployed to Samoa on November 19.
A volunteer disaster medical assistance team organised by the Ministry of Health, NZMAT is made up of doctors, nurses, paramedics, allied health, and non-medical members such as logistics specialists.
The team is deployed when countries seek assistance from New Zealand to assist and support in times of disasters.
“We left immediately after the State of Emergency was declared, and we were based at Leulumoega Hospital, which was a Measles only hospital, ” Teuila says.
Following her initial trip to Samoa, Teuila had a second deployment with the Pasifika Medical Association Medical assistance team (PACMAT), from December 23 until January 12.
“During this deployment I was the Clinical Leader for PACMAT team Lima and worked at Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) Hospital doing Paediatric Clinics in the APCC department.”
The medical assistance team members all felt it was important to go to Samoa to help and support their Samoan clinical colleagues, even though it meant spending Christmas and New Year away from family and friends, Teuila says.
“Those who went over to serve very much wanted to back-fill for our colleagues in Samoa, who have been working continuously since October, so they could have time off with their families.
It made perfect sense for Teuila to be there, who was happy to have helped Samoa reach a State of Recovery, she adds.
“I am a Paediatrician, and the majority of measles patients were children which is my area of clinical expertise.”
On December 28, the Samoan Government cancelled the State of Emergency, shifting to a State of Recovery, a welcome and positive development which reflects the hard work done by Samoa, New Zealand and international partners who helped support the response.
Throughout the measles outbreak, New Zealand has funded 100,000 Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccines provided by UNICEF, and 15,000 Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccines from New Zealand.
It has committed 192 personnel to the response, and it has also committed to fund a new oxygen generation plant and provided medical supplies.
Samoa is currently developing a Recovery Plan, and New Zealand is committed to supporting its Pacific neighbour during this period and beyond as it strengthens its health sector and other affected services following the measles outbreak.