Rehiring Of Am. Samoa Hospital Official Questioned

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Dr. Saleapaga was released, then renewed by new board

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 2, 2014) – American Samoa Hospital Board Member, Velega Savali Vaeao has confirmed that he was contacted by an official from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) regarding allegations that led to Dr Iotamo Saleapaga’s contract not being renewed by the hospital last year.

Velega told Samoa News that there were legitimate reasons why the former hospital CEO released Dr Saleapaga — with the support of the board — yet the new hospital board has re-hired Saleapaga. He believes this is not right and something must be done. Velega did not go into detail as to when and how the CMS official contacted him, but as a hospital board member he says he will provide to the CMS official all the information requested.

Velega told Samoa News that he was the only hospital board member who voted against re-hiring Dr Saleapaga and stated that there were "concrete" reasons why the former hospital board opted not to renew his contract in October of last year.

Velega stated that "maybe" the decision to re-hire Dr Saleapaga was the governor’s and this led to the hospital board supporting the decision.

However, Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira informed Samoa News that Governor Lolo M. Moliga had nothing to do with the re-hiring of Dr Saleapaga saying, "The Board makes the decision. Why are they scapegoating the Governor on this issue?"

Iu stated that whoever is saying that the governor had anything to do with the re-hiring of Dr Saleapaga should provide concrete evidence that they heard the Governor tell the Board to hire him.

Iu also stated that he worked with Dr Saleapaga for over five years and never had any problems with the doctor’s leadership.

"What people need to understand is that Dr Saleapaga at one time was the only physician who could sign for all CMS reimbursement requests because he was the only doctor with a US MD degree. Most of the doctors had graduated from the Fiji School of Medicine and were therefore not eligible to sign reimbursement requests to CMS," he explained.

"In many cases Dr Saleapaga had to countersign prescriptions issued by some of these physicians to comply with CMS rules and regulations. So it is natural to see Dr Saleapaga's signature on CMS reimbursements and prescriptions. When more US MDs were brought in and when we were able to obtain CMS privileges for some of the Senior Foreign Physicians, the situation improved a little."

Regarding the CMS reaching out to Velega, Iu said "it would be nice if the same person also reached out to the Governor, if CMS has legitimate concerns."

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