Samoa project update

A traditional Samoan meeting house

The Samoa Integrated Mobility Device Services (SIMDES) project has reached the first six month milestone! The four year project (2014 – 2018) is a collaboration between the Samoa National Health Service (NHS), NOLA (Nuanua O Le Alofa) and Motivation Australia, funded by the Australian Government (DFAT). Together we are working to create consistent, equitable and sustainable access to appropriate mobility device provision for women, men, girls and boys with a mobility disability in Samoa.

The first six months of the project have been successful, with many of the key elements of the project starting to develop, including the following highlights:

  • The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the project with the National Health Service (NHS) of Samoa;
  • Relationship building with all of the key local stakeholders and our counterparts at the NHS;
  • The establishment of the ‘interim’ service space, where mobility device services will begin before relocating to a new building;
  • The first container of wheelchairs funded by the LDS Church Charities is on its way;
  • Clinical assessment, office equipment and tools for the new service are being purchased;
  • Two accessible vehicles have been purchased and are undergoing conversion before being shipped to Samoa;
  • One Samoan student started his International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) accredited training at the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics in January;
  • Two further Samoan students have just left to begin their ISPO accredited training at Mobility India (one will focus on lower limb prosthetics and one on lower limb orthotics);
  • A Principal for the MDS should be confirmed shortly, and recruitment for local wheelchair clinicians and technicians will also begin soon.

Our most recent June/July in-country visit gave Project Manager Ray Mines the opportunity to update partners and stakeholders on all of our activities to date, and; to continue to plan and work towards the start of basic level mobility device service training in October and the establishment of service provision in November 2014. Ray was joined on the visit by Lauren Flaherty, Motivation Australia’s Senior Clinical Coordinator. Lauren will lead the clinical development of the local team, supported by Motivation Australia’s Consultant Prosthetist Orthotist Lee Brentnall.

Part of the activities of this recent visit were to meet women, men and children with mobility disabilities. The seven NOLA members we met with in their homes around Upolu and Savai’i shared their stories and experiences with us. Common themes include their difficulty accessing and then maintaining a wheelchair that meets their needs, limited support in learning how to use their wheelchair to increase their independence and some confusion around the eligibility of different groups to access funding, services and educational opportunities. These home visits reinforced to the team the need to create sustainable, equitable services that reach out beyond the capital Apia.

Ray also attended the ‘ground breaking’ ceremony for the beginning of construction of the new building which will house the Mobility Device Service (MDS). The new building is funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments and the World Bank through the SWAP. The ceremony was conducted by the Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and the Australian High Commissioner Ms Sue Langford.

Samoa's prime minister

Motivation Australia are looking to hear from occupational therapists, physiotherapists, wheelchair technicians, clinical engineers and prosthetists orthotists who are interested in volunteering for short or long term placements in Samoa. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Lauren Flaherty;