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Half of LBJ receivables owed by non-American Samoans

fili@samoanews.com

LBJ Medical Center’s accounts receivables have reach more than $15 million with almost half of this amount owed by non-American Samoans, and the hospital is working with the Immigration Office on an agreement to collect the outstanding money from the immigration bonds for these individuals, says Viola Babcock, the LBJ chief financial officer.

Babcock, along with other hospital officials were before the House Health/Hospital Committee last Friday to answer questions on several issues, which did not include the financial status of the hospital. The committee has set another hearing tomorrow to take up all financial issues.

House Vice Speaker Talia Fa’afetai Iaulualo inquired about the total accounts receivable for the hospital and how much of that is owed by non-American Samoans. Babcock responded that by the end of November last year, the receivables were at $15.9 million-- and of this amount $6.5 million was owed by non-American Samoans by the end of fiscal year 2011 (which ended Sept. 30, 2011).

Iaulualo wanted to know if LBJ had made contact with the Immigration Office about the liability on the bond paid for immigrants by their sponsors, to be used to off-set these debts.

Babcock told lawmakers that so far the hospital has a good relationship with Immigration and has been able to work out a pay-out plan for monies owed to the hospital. However, she says the Immigration Office wants a memorandum of agreement between the two sides dealing with this issue and attorneys are working on it. Additionally, Immigration is researching local law as to what they can provide for the hospital.

UNCLAIMED REMAINS AT MORGUE

Responding to a question about  remains that have been in the mortuary for two years, Babcock said a body has been in the mortuary for 15 months, adding that the first two months or so, no one came forth to claim it.

She said LBJ then proceeded to locate family of the deceased, and they were successful. The hospital’s legal counsel is negotiating with family members on a resolution to this matter, which includes payment of all hospital fees. (No other details about the deceased were made public during the hearing.)

She also explained that the family is responsible for paying any expenses for the deceased and this includes morgue fees and other hospital fees if the person, who passed away, was hospitalized prior to that person’s death.

Moananu Va, chairman of the hospital board, said this is a sensitive and difficult issue for the hospital. He said if the deceased is a foreigner, a non-American Samoan, then it’s the person’s sponsor or local family members who are responsible for any outstanding debts, which have to be paid.

CHAPEL FEE

House committee chairman Pulele’iite L. Tufele told hospital officials that rumor has it that LBJ is proposing or has imposed a fee for use of the LBJ Chapel, which is also being used by the hospital as a meeting room, leaving families of deceased relatives without a place to hold a church service.

LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger describes the fee as an “urban myth”, saying that he has heard it before, but it’s not true and the hospital has no plans to impose a fee for chapel use.

As to using the facility as a meeting place,  board chairman Moananu Va reminded lawmakers that the hospital management no longer has a conference room, which was converted several months ago into the dialysis unit expansion due to the increase in the number of dialysis patients.

Moananu also pointed out that LBJ management gives priority to prayer services for families of the deceased, reminding those present that construction of the LBJ chapel was funded by money from three major religious faiths in the territory.

PHARMACY HOURS

Pulele’iitele also said that other complaints that surfaced in the House deal with hours of operation for the Pharmacy, as it appears none are set by policy. The committee was informed that the Pharmacy is open daily, and hours of operation are 7:30a.m. - 5p.m., Monday to Friday;  8a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturdays; and 8 a.m -12noon on Sundays and holidays.

OVERTIME FOR REGISTERED NURSES (RN)

Asked about reports that overtime for RN are not being paid, hospital official To’oaga Seumalo explained that the only RNs not getting any overtime pay are those doing administrative duties, and there are just five individuals in that category.

However, she emphasized that these same individuals have been told that if they are needed for an emergency situation at the hospital after hours, they must report to work although they would not be compensated.

(Samoa News was told by some LBJ employees that overtime for RNs are paid with comp time; however there has been an issue with overtime being paid at 'regular time' rates when it was converted to comp time, and not at time and a half, which is the overtime rate under law. In a recent visit by auditors, LBJ was told to correct this error, and compensate the hours retroactively, according to the LBJ employees.)



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