AUDIT FINDS NURSE SHORTAGE AT PAGO PAGO HOSPITAL

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Jan. 22, 2008) - A Center for Medicaid and Medicare Service (CMS) audit found that there is a significant shortage of registered nurses (RNs) at LBJ Medical Center. According to LBJ's FY 2007 financial report submitted by chief executive officer Patricia Tindall to Gov. Togiola Tulafono, LBJ is working to make sure this situation is addressed.

Since CMS certification is required for continued federal funding, and since CMS requirements are based on the provision of quality patient care, it is imperative that the RN shortage be addressed, it says.

In the short and mid-term, this requires LBJ to recruit from off-island; for the long term, LBJ is hopeful that the American Samoa Community College will be able to provide enough qualified graduates (who are willing to remain in American Samoa) to address the shortage, the report says.

It says that six new U.S. certified and licensed Filipino nurses have been sourced and all have qualifications and experience that far exceed local licensing requirements. No American Samoan RNs are being displaced by the recruitment.

"However, LBJ continues to suffer with continued delays in obtaining immigration clearances," the report says. "LBJ recognizes that patients are suffering with this nursing shortage and is doing all it can to find credentialed and qualified nurses."

The first nurse from the Philippines arrived in July.

"We will continue to source nursing staff to relieve our long term, overworked Samoan staff. LBJ has actively lobbied officials...at Immigration, and is awaiting response from the Attorney General to a meeting invitation," the report notes.

Late last year, House members complained about the nursing shortage. LBJ officials testified that there is a nursing shortage worldwide and there is not much LBJ can do because American Samoa is competing with other countries offering higher salaries.

LBJ officials also pointed out that some nurses have relocated to the mainland with their families, while others have moved to the Department of Health, where working hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other activities cited in the report include the Operating Room coming under the Nursing Department , and LBJ is actively seeking an OR manager.

Basic Life Support refresher and training courses are also being held for physicians and nurses, which is an annual requirement.

Additionally, an Advanced Critical Life Support course is run for all nursing and physicians on staff.

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