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Senator says ‘people’s health should be priority’

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, ) – American Samoa senator, Velega Savali, says the fiscal situation at the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital is critical and he wants unspent proceeds from the 20 million U.S. dollar loan from the American Samoa Government (ASG) Retirement Fund given to the hospital.

He said this includes an allocation for a new Fono building and money intended for the Eastern, Western and Manu’a Districts.

Velega says the fiscal woes of the hospital are an emergency which must be addressed now instead of waiting till the Fono resumes next year.

He says people’s health should be the priority of the government.

The hospital management has blamed the government’s failure to pay budgeted subsidies for a severe shortfall in revenues, and is contemplating raising rates and a layoff.

This has been put on hold however to give the governor and Fono time to come up with a solution.

[PIR editor’s note: The hospital adopted a radical policy of accepting specialized doctors who had not passed U.S. medical licensing tests in order to fill critical staff shortages in Emergency and Family Medicine departments in June 2011. Hospital officials said the salaries, which were about one-third the pay of U.S. continental doctors', do little to attract qualified physicians. Governor Togiola Tulafono had initially said all physicians must pass the exams, but allowed for a 12-month waiver for doctors hired under such circumstances.]

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