New Zealand-funded oxygen generation plant launched

Last week the new New Zealand-funded Oxygen Generation Plant was officially launched at the Moto’otua TTM hospital.
High Commissioner of Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Trevor Matheson
Tihei mauriora! | Tena koutou katoa | Talofa lava |
Greetings to you all
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Samoa. On behalf of Aotearoa New Zealand, I would like to express our deepest condolences to Samoa for the lives lost as a result of COVID-19 and our utmost admiration for your health and other frontline workers that have kept this country safe. During these unprecedented times, we will continue to partner with Samoa to get through this challenging period together.
I am delighted to be here today at the official opening of the Oxygen Generation Plant. This project was over two years in the making. We first received the request for oxygen supply support from Samoa in late 2019 during the measles epidemic.
That was a very difficult time. There were so many sick youngsters and babies that oxygen supplies were almost depleted. The current oxygen generating plant couldn’t cope and was on the verge of collapse. There were many sleepless nights as the Nafanua was dispatched on numerous voyages to American Samoa to refill oxygen tanks and hopefully return before the oxygen supply was exhausted.
By the grace of God and the outstanding commitment of many, including a number present today, and I’d like to specially acknowledge the leadership role of the Director General of Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri, Samoa got through the oxygen emergency – but not before the epidemic had claimed 83 young souls.
We all agreed at the time never to allow an oxygen depletion situation to ever arise again. But we never envisaged COVID would closely follow measles.
Lockdowns, delays in shipping, supply chain constraints, travel and border restrictions and the non-availability of technicians have all contributed to delays in this work. Despite these challenges, perserverance and tenacity have paid dividends. In March we were finally able to bring in a technical team to install and commission the new plant.
The commissioning could not have been timelier: a week after omicron community transmission was reported in Apia. And here we are gathered today to celebrate the opening of the operational oxygen plant: an achievement we should all be very proud of.
I’d like to acknowledge those who have partnered us on this oxygen journey.
Warm appreciation goes to Atlas Copco New Zealand, the oxygen engineers from Auckland who procured, installed and commissioned the oxygen plant, and trained MOH staff in the operation and maintenance of the plant.
Thanks also to Steve Hastings and the team at Pacific Diesel Repairs for their work preparing the housing for the oxygen plant and their on the ground assistance. Thanks too to the NZHC health and property team for their coordination and oversight role.
We worked alongside the team at the Ministry of Health Samoa to procure the equipment from the United Kingdom. Samoa built the shelter which is housing the plant and is responsible to ensure the plant operates efficiently. Aotearoa New Zealand funded the final installation and commissioning of the plant, including maintenance training.
In total, Aotearoa New Zealand contributed NZD$665,000 or more than one million tala to the procurement, installation and commissioning of the plant.
This project is part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s underlying commitment to boost the capacity, quality and professionalism of Samoa’s health system.
Our assistance comes at an important milestone for our two countries. This year is the 60th anniversary of Samoa’s independence and the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Samoa and Aotearoa New Zealand. This project was truly a team effort and a reflection of the strong partnership between our countries.
I’d like to end this short speech with repeating the phrase “Tīhei mauriora!” – a common expression in te reo Māori, which aptly acknowledges the breath of life that oxygen means to us all
In that context may I say how proud we are to be “lifelong friends, uō mamae” with Samoa and may this country and all its citizens continue to “sail with faith, Folau ma le Faatuatua” into a blessed future.