Top Positions At American Samoa Hospital To Be Eliminated

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LBJ Board says budget challenges forced decision to abolish jobs

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 19, 2013) – As a result of the Hospital Board’s six-month assessment of the LBJ Tropical Medical Center, six top positions have been abolished due to budget impacts, according to an LBJ board member who wishes not to be named.

The six hospital positions being eliminated include Chief Operating Officer/Vice President of Professional Services; Director/President of Nursing; Vice President/Human Resources Director; Quality Assurance Director; Vice President of Plant Services/Chief Engineer and Director of Care Services.

According to the board member, after their evaluation of the hospital the board discovered that these positions that are impacting the budget had not been properly advertised; yet these positions were created, along with their salaries and this is why the board is calling upon the hospital for a restructuring of manpower.

"We studied the hospital for six to seven months and there were a lot of financial problems, personnel problems, hiring problems and compensation problems," said the board member.

"In essence, we're trying to make things right at the hospital, in terms of hospital procedures in the hiring and compensation practices. When we looked at it, there was no clear documentation of things being done the right way. These positions were not advertised and we are trying to make thing right and to make the system, fair, just and equitable — so what the board looks at is… accountability… that’s our job, to ensure in our oversight role as stewards of public money that expenditures of the hospital are appropriate.

"We are now implementing the changes that need to happen to put the hospital back on the right course, so that we can develop a more financially stable hospital," said the board member.

According to the board member, these positions with significantly high salaries were created during the last administration. The first phase to the long term financial stability of LBJ is changing polices to re-structure the financial reality of our community in the hospital budget, the board member said.

"When people hear the word vice president or president… they are like 'whoa'. We are trying to make this hospital a family-friendly hospital. Also, these positions are usually found in big hospitals, but not for a small community hospital."

The board member told Samoa News that those with the positions that have been eliminated will be given first preference for jobs, but they have to apply like anyone else and the job they are applying for is not guaranteed to them.

"Positions will now be advertised within the hospital and to the public and we the board are looking for the most qualified people. Those impacted will get first preference and they are good people, however we have to do this the right way. The new administration is looking at turning the hospital around and this must be done the right way, because other problems we have are that Doctors and Nurses are either overpaid or underpaid and we’re currently in the process of fixing these difficult issues.

Samoa News obtained a copy of the letter sent to one of the top officials whose position was eliminated, which was signed by the hospital’s CEO, Joseph Davis-Fleming. According to the letter, due to the hospital’s continued and pervasive financial difficulties, the hospital board has been forced to take drastic actions, including mandating a reorganization of hospital operations to ensure future visibility of the only hospital in American Samoa.

"This reorganization requires elimination of your current position," says the letter.

"Due to the reduction in both local and federal funding sources and our inability to provide sufficient funding to allow for furlough, this notice is considered a reduction in force notice pursuant to section 11.0454 of the LBJ Tropical Medical Center Personnel Policy Manual. The required fifteen days of termination notice begins July 13, 2013 and will end on July 27, 2013 for employees who have completed their probationary period and are not considered part time or per diem," says the letter.

The hospital CEO in his letter, which is dated July 12, 2013, stated that being consistent with LBJ personnel policies, those impacted will be entitled to a payment of unused annual leave and 50% of sick time above 239 accumulated hours on the effective date of the reduction in force. "LBJ will not withhold any voluntary payroll deduction on final paychecks issued to the employee," said the CEO.

The CEO further stated that as a result of a board mandated reorganization, those impacted will have the option of applying for newly defined management or other vacant positions and will be considered, if qualified. "Additionally, you may be offered an acting director position in a new restricted department on a temporary basis until the vacancy for that position has been filled by either you, should you wish to be considered and are selected as the most qualified candidate for this post, or by another candidate determined to be more qualified."

"You also have the right to resign/retire before the end of the 15-days termination notice period and refuse any offer to extend your employment with the LBJ Tropical Medical Center under a different position or status and still receive your final salary and benefits payment as outlined in our policies and procedures manual."

CC’d on the letter were the Hospital Board of Directors Chair, Tofoitaufa Sandra King Young, as well as the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Akapusi Ledua and Chief Financial Officer, Leilua Stevenson.

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