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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 11, 1998 - Samoa News)---Straub Clinic & Hospital is soliciting political support from Senate President Lutu Tenari Fuimaono as it tries to resolve a $4.2 million debt owed by the LBJ Tropical Medical Center to the Honolulu-based private medical facility.

In a letter hand-delivered to the Senate President, Straub's Director of Pacific Islands Medical Services, Dr. Henry Preston, briefed the Senate President on the impact of the three year debt owed to Straub by the LBJ Tropical Medical Center.

"We at Straub Clinic & Hospital have an obligation to all our patients. The debt of over $4.2 million owed by the American Samoa Government significantly reduces our ability to provide services to all our patients," Preston pointed out to the Senate President.

"This will have a significant impact on the services we provide in1998 and is having significant impact on the salaries of all our staff and physicians."

Preston also asked the Senate President to help convince the Executive Branch to finalize a repayment plan within 30 days.

If the matter is not resolved, Dr. Preston suggests that Straub will not offer services to the new LBJ Governing Board.

However, Senate President Lutu told the membership that the Fono is not a "collection agency." He told the Senate membership not to be concerned with the debt owed to Straub.

"Our duty is to enact new laws while the Executive Branch implements the law," said the Senate President. "If the Executive Branch wishes to submit legislation for new sources of revenues to pay its debts, then the Fono will get involved."

The American Samoa Government (ASG), on the other hand, has been "desperately" trying to pay off Straub and other vendors, Treasurer Tifimalae Ale told Samoa News.

"Despite our efforts to reduce the debt to Straub, new bills increase our outstanding account," he explained.

He said that ASG has consistently met a repayment schedule worked out last year, whereby the government pays Straub and other hospital vendors a total of close to $250,000 a week to retire past debts. But despite the payments, the medical referral program costs continue to climb.

According to the ASG Newsletter, the off-island medical referral has been the primary source of government overspending for years.

The same Newsletter states that ASG owes vendors such as Straub $22.8 million, about half of which is more than a year old. The Newsletter states that LBJ's unpaid bills amount to $6.2 million, which (if accurate) means Straub is owed the lion's share of that amount.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to samoanews@samoatelco.com

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