MED STAFF MARCH TO EOB: “THE MESSAGE IS THAT PEOPLE WILL LIKELY DIE ..."
The LBJ Medical Center plans to carry out in stages the furlough of more than 200 workers starting this Friday (tomorrow), while the hospital’s medical staff will have a peaceful march at 9 a.m. today from Utulei Beach to the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building.
At the same time, a letter from hospital personnel, including doctors and nurses, was sent yesterday to Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who has been asked to assist in remedying the current “financial crisis” at the hospital. (Click on attachment at bottom of story for text of letter.)
LAY OFFS UPDATE
Samoa News reported yesterday that some 200 workers were to be laid off effective Feb. 19. However, during yesterday’s Senate session, Sen. Fuata Dr. Tagiilima Iatala informed his colleagues that close to 300 workers — across the board, including doctors and nurses — received furlough notices on Tuesday.
Fuata, who is also a pediatrician by profession, works nights as needed, as well as being on call for the emergency room. He told senators that the layoffs are to be carried out in stages with the first round of furlough to begin this Friday, continuing to Feb. 19.
He also said that when he was on duty two nights ago, there were only seven patients for the eight hours he worked, compared to an average of 20 patients prior to the rate hike, which took effect on Feb. 6.
“The hospital is faced with a serious financial crisis,” said Fuata, who pleaded with his colleagues to help address the financial woes faced by the only hospital in the territory so that layoffs can be halted and the rate hike can be repealed, because it is not affordable for many local residents. (See separate story on Fono debate over the $3 million bill for LBJ).
When asked after the session, Fuata said the number of affected employees is close to 300, and he believes more than twenty physicians have been given lay off notices. “I was very sad after hearing about this news from fellow physicians,” Fuata said in an interview at his Senate office. “The mood among personnel was not good; very sad.”
He also said that nurses and other essential medical personnel such as lab technicians are “very important to the work of a physician, who need all the required support staff.”
Fuata said, “As a physician, I cannot do the work alone. I need nurses, I need technicians in Radiology and Lab, if patients are in need of this service, in order for me to get a clearer medical condition of the patient,” he said. “Another big concern to me with this layoff, is the reduction of professional staff, which leads to overworked physicians and nurses who are not furloughed.”
“Fewer doctors working on duty around the clock without sufficient rest may result in hasty decisions being made — even erroneous decisions — that would lead to legal ramifications,” he said, adding that LBJ is in dire financial need.
Lawmakers have said that since the fee hikes, the number of those coming to the emergency room has dropped drastically. A Samoa News staffer went through the hospital yesterday, noting that places that are usually packed with people were empty.
According to the LBJ fourth quarter performance report for fiscal year 2011 there were 67,760 outpatient clinic visits for FY 2010 and 68,488 in FY 2011. For the emergency department, there were 39,118 visits in FY 2010 and 39,628 in FY 2011.
LBJ’s medical staff will march to the governor’s office at 9 a.m today from Utulei Beach, which was confirmed by one of the organizers, via phone, after a meeting held at the LBJ chapel yesterday afternoon.
The meeting, well attended by the medical staff, was held to reach a final consensus of whether to march at all today, where to march to — the EOB or to the Fono — and who should speak for the medical staff.
None of the board members of the medical center were at the meeting yesterday, but, as an organizer of the march told Samoa News, “We will be representing the medical staff and employees of the hospital, it is not the official hospital position.”
“We aim to express to the governor and the public the consequences of ASG’s non-payment over the past year of earmarked funds and to warn of the horrific outcomes that will likely ensue should the governor not step in to pay the hospital what it is owed,” the organizer stated. “The message is that people will likely die from this crisis that was created by non-payment of the LBJ subsidy.”
For the peaceful march, Samoa News was told that the Emergency Room will remain open and the on-call physicians from each service in the hospital will remain in the hospital to field any emergencies. Staff are expect to promptly return to LBJ to provide care for patients after the short and peaceful demonstration.
Samoa News will continue to update the community on the LBJ situation as it develops. For the latest go to samoanews.com