By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Feb. 14, 2008) - The Senate yesterday passed legislation that would 'grandfather in' non U.S. certified doctors working at LBJ Medical Center, thus exempting them from taking the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE).

The bill states that individuals holding a license to practice medicine or dentistry issued by the Health Services Regulatory Board (HSRB) on or prior to Dec. 17, 2007 shall be considered "as qualified heath care personnel, having met standards of education, training and experience acceptable for licensing in American Samoa and shall be deemed duly licensed..."

Prior to yesterday's vote, the Senate added amendments approved on Tuesday. One major amendment is that the Health Services Regulatory Board will be composed of 8 individuals appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Current laws does not require Senate approval of the board which is comprised of a chairman designated by the governor, one physician, a public health officer, a registered nurse, a medical officer, a dentist, a licensed practical nurse and a representative from the American Samoa Community College school of nursing program.

Current statues state that the board chairman is the Health Department director but that has been deleted by the Senate.

The bill adds qualifications for the chairman, who "shall possess adequate knowledge and experience in the medical and public health fields or be a licensed physician" provided the person is not the LBJ medical director.

The Senate also added exclusive powers and duties of the board, to include requiring "committees to establish licensing regulations necessary for the maintenance of professional competence, ethical standards and operation and maintenance of health care facilities, including hospitals, dispensaries and clinics."

The bill added that the LBJ Medical Center is "to employ a firm of independent certified public accountants with audit experience in the medical and health care service field to annually examine and report upon the status of financial records and accounts of the Medical Center and to furnish a copy of the reports to the Governor and the Legislature."

Additionally LBJ Medical Center will "work with the Health Services Regulatory Board to review and recommend revision of criteria and standards for licensing of medial professionals and requirements for continuing professional education and development."

For the LBJ board, the bill says that incumbent members may "not serve 90 days after the expiration of their terms."

Other technical amendments added include providing to the governor and the Fono necessary financial reports in a certain time frame.

Sen. Pulefaasisina Tuiasosopo said these amendments will further clarify and strengthen the roles of the hospital and the Health Services Regulatory Board.

The bill now goes to the House for their consideration and some hospital officials are hopeful for a full hearing so they can provide input on the measure.

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