AMERICAN SAMOA HOSPITAL BEGINS TALKS WITH SAMOA'S HOSPITAL

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By Richard J. Coleman

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 23, 1999 – Samoa News)---There is still no formal "Memorandum of Understanding" between the LBJ Tropical Medical Center and the Tamasese Meaole National Hospital in Apia, according to LBJ Chief Executive Officer Taufete'e John Faumuina.

But Taufete’e did confirm yesterday that he, Medical Director Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga, and the LBJ board of directors held their second annual meeting in Apia last week with officials from the Tamasese Meaole National Hospital of Samoa.

Taufete'e said he has talked with Lolofie Dr. Eti Enosa, director general of Samoa's hospital, about a formal MOU as well as "about sharing expertise, skills and possible patient referrals to LBJ for diagnostic purposes."

"We can help them develop telemedicine and video-conferencing capabilities," he said. "We can exchange professionals on a need basis. For example, they have a pathologist, we don't. They have radiologists and we don't even have one that is fully on-board yet. They are also ahead of us on information capability because of a $2 million grant they got recently from France. There is much that we could learn from each other."

"Our recent discussions really had nothing to do with the MOU that the governor has in mind, the one that they will meet about in Apia on Monday," he added. "We have not initiated any patient referrals yet."

He noted that there is still a lot of work that must be done first.

HISTORY OF TALKS

"We had invited Dr. Enosa over for the grand opening of our diagnostic center several months ago, and he saw our CT Scanner," Taufete'e said. "He asked me then about the possibility of patient referrals for diagnostic purposes with the CT Scanner. When he returned to Apia, he contacted Prime Minister Tuilaepa and advised him of what was now available here at LBJ and its possibilities for their patients."

Apparently, the prime minister then contacted Governor Tauese Sunia and told him that he would like to establish a formal exchange of expertise, skills and equipment between the two island entities.

"The governor spoke to us about it and we told him that we supported the idea of helping out Western Samoa any way we can so long as it is within our means," Taufete'e told Samoa News.

The CEO also said that about a year ago he had turned down Dr. Enosa's request to refer renal failure patients to LBJ for dialysis service because the cost "would be too prohibitive for all concerned, including us."

According to Taufete'e, Western Samoa's Parliament "has been wanting for some time now to have dialysis services available in Apia and I think their medical people did not support the idea because of the costs involved, financial and social."

"Bear in mind, the average dialysis treatment is three to four hours a day, three times a week," he said. "So this is not just referring a patient. That patient and his or her family has to consider relocating here for a long period of time, if not permanently. I don't think we have the capability of absorbing those patients. The high cost is the reality of this situation."

He said it is too costly for Apia or for any island nation to handle this kind of program alone.

"For us, the saving grace is that we share the cost with our Medicare-Medicaid programs," he said. "Otherwise, we would not be able to support it ourselves."

Samoa News

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