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By Tauva Esera

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 28, 2002 – Samoa News)---The Chairman of the LBJ Medical Center Board, Tamasoali'i Joe Pereira, admitted to the Fono yesterday, during the LBJ Medical Center's budget hearing, that a lot of people are dying at the hospital due to a number of factors, which include the hospital personnel's insufficient professional knowledge to handle patients.

The hospital board Chairman's testimony came after Fono members grilled LBJ executives about the recently raised hospital fees, doctor's salaries, the Manu'a dispensaries' lack of doctors, the overcrowded morgue, lack of doctors for dialysis patients and the rising death rate, especially of children, at LBJ.

LBJ's Board Chairman Pereira, Chief Executive Officer Taufete'e John Faumuina, and Chief Engineer Gordon Wilcox attended the Fono's Joint Budget Hearing yesterday, which was chaired by Senator Tuaolo Fruean and Representative Fonoti Savali Vaeao.

Officials from the ASG Budget Office were also in attendance.

A feisty Senator Fonoti Aufata directly challenged LBJ's Board Chairman. "Who gave you the authority to implement the raise in hospital fees?" he asked.

Tamasoali'i replied that the LBJ Hospital Authority's bylaws clearly state the authority by which the LBJ Board can determine the raising of hospital fees.

"Why did you consult the Fono in the first place?" Senator Fonoti persisted, referring to the initial hearing conducted last year when the same LBJ officials had initially proposed the increase in hospital fees before the Fono.

Tamasoali'i replied that the hospital authority wanted to seek the wisdom, knowledge and opinions of the lawmakers to decide whether the proposed increase in hospital fees was applicable.

Tamasoali'i explained to the Fono members that the purpose for raising the hospital fees was to pay off debts totaling $8 million that LBJ owes to the off-island medical centers, where some local patients are referred for medical treatment.

Tamasoali'i claimed that only half a million dollars was left to be paid off of the $8 million debt.

Senator Fonoti shot back, "After paying off the debt, are you returning to the old fee structure?"

Tamasoali'i hedged his answer, replying that LBJ has not collected enough money yet, and the hospital is still in desperate need of more doctors and nurses.

According to Tamasoali'i, LBJ has collected $2.5 million since the increased fees went into effect earlier this year.

But again he claimed that the 34-year-old LBJ still requires a lot to upgrade and improve the quality of medical services for American Samoa.

Senator Fonoti asked if doctors’ salaries were the major factor as to why LBJ could not take good care of our territory's people when they are admitted to the hospital. Tamasoali'i answered that it was only part of the problem.

Manu'a Faipule Fetu Fetui, Jr. brought up again the problems with the Manu'a dispensaries and the lack of at least one doctor to attend to patients in Manu'a when they need medical assistance.

LBJ CEO Faumuina J. Taufete'e declared that he is still a little vague as to whether the Manu'a dispensaries were LBJ's responsibility or that of the Department of Public Health's.

Chairman Tamasoali'i promised the Manu'a faipule that regardless of who was responsible, a doctor should be provided for the hospitals in Manu'a.

Upon further questioning from the lawmakers, Taufete'e confirmed that there had been a time when the LBJ morgue was packed and several dead bodies were laying outside in public view.

However, he assured the Fono members that the problem has been remedied by using the doctor's library as additional space to store the corpses.

Taufete'e promised that the "undignified view" of corpses lying outside the morgue would not happen again and that a new morgue is currently under construction.

Another Senator expressed sadness that there were a lot of people that are dying needlessly at LBJ because of the doctors' inability to handle them.

Senator Saoimanulua Solosolo, a dialysis patient, expressed great concern with respect to the dialysis ward not having a doctor for the past three months, to attend to the close to 100 dialysis patients.

Taufete'e explained that LBJ had done its best to offer the highest salary they could afford to promote the position, only to be turned down.

"Too many people are dying at the hospital, especially the children," said the concerned Senator, citing the rising death rate of children at LBJ.

The Senator stated that he understood that most of these cases involve children who are admitted to the hospital only to be told by the doctors that they should be taken home.

He suggested that children be admitted for at least 24 hours for observation so that the doctors will have more time to determine the seriousness of the child's illness.

Concluding their budget testimony, Chairman Tamasoali'i told the Fono members that even though the statements made against the hospital hurt him, he had to admit and agree with the Fono leaders that a lot of people are dying at the hospital.

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

For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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