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Looking for a home: LBJ to DPS to LBJ; Gov explains

fili@samoanews.com

Gov. Togiola Tulafono used his weekend radio program to explain why the Emergency Medical Service was transferred in October of 2008 from the LBJ Medical Center to the Department of Public Safety, and then returned back to the hospital effective Jan. 1 of this year.

Togiola touched on this issue again because EMS employees didn’t get paid on the government payday which was last week Monday. They only received their pay checks last Friday, after the Treasury Department transferred $135,000 to LBJ for EMS personnel.

The governor apologized to EMS workers and their families because of this problem, saying there were no funds in the EMS account but this matter has since been resolved. 

Several lawmakers and others in the community have raised the question over the past months — as to why EMS was transferred to DPS in the first place, when EMS functions are so closely related to the hospital. Samoa News also received several e-mails asking the same question last week.

On his radio program, Togiola said that he would again try to explain the reason for the transfer to DPS, an explanation he said he first made some four years ago.

He recalled that he had been approached by EMS officials, who made statements at the time that it would be best to have EMS be a part of DPS. They said that there were grants available through DPS which EMS could apply for, that would support EMS functions and duties.

Togiola said he was also told at the time that EMS could generate its own revenue through its ambulances services.

However, after three years under DPS, it was discovered that a lot of local revenues had been allocated to fund EMS and there were no additional revenues being collected through ambulance services, because of the difficulties encountered with the two entities (LBJ and EMS) working together.

Togiola claims that LBJ didn’t want to assist EMS after it was transferred to DPS. He said the decision was then made last year to transfer EMS back to LBJ, who would then work closely with EMS on various needs, including funding.

However, after the transfer, LBJ sought funding to pay for the EMS payroll, said Togiola, who noted again that EMS was supposed to generate its own revenue when it was transferred to DPS, but that was not the case.

He said when the transfer of EMS back to LBJ was made, not a single penny was ever collected in EMS revenue, and it was local revenue that has been allocated all these years to fund EMS operations.

He said it was best for the government to have EMS work with LBJ instead of the government digging into local revenues.

LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger told Samoa News last Friday afternoon that the money transferred by ASG Treasury will only cover a few pay periods, while the hospital will work with the governor and the Fono to identify additional funding for EMS for the remainder of the fiscal year.

LBJ officials testified last year during FY 2012 budget hearings that EMS is eligible to receive Medicaid funding for providing ambulance services, but EMS needs to do its own billing as well as coming up with local matching funds.



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