They waited until 4 p.m. to finally leave governor’s office
LBJ medical staff, personnel and supporters yesterday morning uniting with a Samoan hymn and then a prayer to end the day’s gathering, which was supposed to be a peaceful march from Utulei Beach to the Executive Office Building to call the government’s attention to the current financial plight faced by the hospital. Instead, they chose to send four representatives to meet with the governor. [photo: FS]

The four physicians representing the medical staff and other personnel at LBJ Medical Center, left the Governor’s Office around 4 p.m yesterday without a chance to meet Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who was reported to have met Tuesday night with the hospital board of directors regarding the hospital’s financial status.

The four physicians who went to see the governor, included pediatrician Dr. Mike Favazza, who told Samoa News late yesterday that they were not able to deliver the petition, were not able to talk to the governor and the governor’s secretary informed him that the governor was too busy and his schedule was full.

The secretary suggested that the medical staffers schedule an appointment to see the governor, said Favazza in a telephone interview a few minutes after 4 p.m. yesterday, while he and his medical colleagues had been at the Governor’s Office waiting since 9:30 a.m.

The medical staff were hoping to meet with the governor to discuss their concerns with the financial condition of the hospital, as well as presenting the medical staff’s petition, which was also signed by other LBJ personnel.

More than 100 signatures were on the petition, said Favazza, adding that the governor did meet yesterday afternoon with LBJ’s senior management team, but he and his colleagues were not invited to attend. 

The petition letter states in part that LBJ’s current financial crisis will have dire consequences with respect to the provision of healthcare to the people of this territory, and ultimately may result in the tragic and unnecessary loss of American Samoan lives. (See yesterday’s edition for full details)

“We postponed our march at the request of the hospital board; we supported our board in order to show solidarity with our leadership,” said Favazza. “We may still hold a march at a later time.”

The peaceful march from Utulei Beach to the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building was scheduled for 9 a.m. yesterday to bring the government’s attention to the financial woes at LBJ. It was also during the march that the petition was to be presented to the governor.

When asked for comments before 9 a.m. yesterday at Utulei Beach, Dr. Matagiese Tunoa told Samoa News that there were “new developments” and LBJ personnel at the beach would be told about the new developments and therefore the march was going to be put on hold.

Tunoa declined to reveal details of the new development, but did say that “there is some reassuring news of better things to come.”

Favazza said the hospital needs immediate funding because the government did not pay all of its subsidies in FY 2011 and the hospital has run out of its reserve revenue.

“If we do not have an immediate infusion of cash, the care of the people of American Samoa will be compromised,” he said.

Tunoa then addressed the close to 100 LBJ personnel who showed up for the march saying that some new developments have surfaced and asked everyone for their patience, so that the four medical staffers could first meet with the governor.

“We’re not being defiant of management,” he said and noted that the workforce “can’t make this a personnel vendetta.” He said this is a planned “peaceful” march with no tension involved. This message was also emphasized by others who spoke to the gathering, including Dr. B. Muasau, the acting director of Chief of Medical Staff, saying that “my aim is to help everyone here today — not only doctors but... security [and] cleaners. All of you are important.”

Another LBJ staff member urged her colleagues to allow the medical staffers to meet with the governor; while others preferred to continue to move forward with the peaceful march.

Toafala Iafeta, who heads the Radiology Department, disagreed with not carrying out the march as agreed upon during Wednesday’s meeting. He said this financial problem for LBJ has not been solved over the last six months.

“The governor knows. The bottom line is the hospital needs money. So why wait ’til the last minute? This is playing politics with people lives,” he later told Samoa News, adding that “all of us are suffering — the employees and the patients.”

“We want to demonstrate to the governor that we need help. That’s all it is,” he said, and noted that his department has six employees affected by the layoffs.

The four medical staffers informed the gathering that they will meet with the governor and then return to tell everyone the outcome. However, it was about 15 minutes later that Dr. Jim Marrone informed the gathering that he had just received a call from the four staffers, who stated that a cabinet meeting had started at 9 a.m. and they were hoping to meet with the governor at 10 a.m.

The crowd was told to return to their posts at the hospital and everyone will be informed later about what happened at the meeting.

Information received by Samoa News as well as heard in the Fono stated that between 200 and 300 employees will be affected by the furloughs set to begin today thru Feb. 19.

Samoa News learned that four senior management nurses met Wednesday afternoon with the governor, who also met with the LBJ board later in the day.

There has been no reply from LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger on the latest development relating to the hospital, including the layoffs, or the outcome of a meeting with the governor, whose office has yet to release any official statement regarding emergency funding for the hospital.

The governor is said to have left on last night’s Hawaiian Air flight, but Samoa News was unable to confirm his departure or his itinerary, as of press time.


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