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Senate rejects Governor’s nominees for LBJ board

fili@samoanews.com

The Senate yesterday rejected Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s nominations of Fa’amausili Mau Mau, Jr. and Gaea Failautusi Perefoti as two new board members for the American Samoa Medical Center Authority.

In a vote by secret ballot, in accordance with local law, Fa’amausili received 7 yea and 5 nay votes; while Gaea got 5 yea and 8 nay votes. Only the Senate is required to confirm board members for the hospital, and each nominee needed at least 10 affirmative votes to win the seat.

The governor now has the option of resubmitting their names during the next session, or else submitting new nominees.

Fa’amausili, a former senator and currently manager of the Office of Motor Vehicles, was to replace the seat left vacant following the passing last year of Tufele Lia.  Gaea, a former ASG Treasurer and currently ASG Internal Auditor, replaces the seat held by Charles Warren— currently residing in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. 

Other board members are chairman Moananau Va and Commerce Department deputy director Lelei Peau. Dr. Fred Uhrle Jr. currently serves as medical advisor to the board in a non-voting capacity.

CONFIRMATION HEARING

The Senate vote during the regular session came after the Senate Health and Hospital Committee held a one-hour confirmation hearing earlier in the day where the nominees responded to a number of questions from senators.

One of the questions asked was the opinion of the nominee on the governor’s proposal to transfer the hospital to the Executive Branch under the Department of Health, to which Gaea replied that he believes the board should be firmed up first and then make necessary recommendations to the governor, who is very concerned with the financial condition of LBJ.

Fa’amausili said he would need to review the matter first but he also believes that maybe the hospital should be on its own. A couple of senators were very happy with this reply from the nominee, who had also served in the Department of Public Safety for many years prior to being in the senate.

Sen. Fuata Dr. Tagiilima Iatala asked Gaea for his opinion— as a former Treasurer— if one of the reasons the hospital is faced with its current financial woes was due to ASG’s failure to pay in full the required annual subsidies. (LBJ officials had publicly stated that the government didn’t pay close to $3 million in subsidies for FY 2011).

Gaea replied, “Maybe that’s one of the weaknesses” but was quick to point out that ASG also needs to cover its expenditures. However, he agreed that subsidies needed to be paid.

Fa’amausili was asked for his opinion of LBJ’s current action of closing outpatient clinics on Fridays, to which he replied that he disagrees with such an action, adding that all hospital services should be available to the public.

Closing clinics on Fridays is one of the hospital’s cost saving measures implemented last month, along with the reduction in working hours for certain staff members.

An issue raised by Fuata, who works on-call part-time for the hospital, is that neither of the two nominees are physicians, nor do they have any medical background. He also said that none of the current board members have medical backgrounds.

Gaea responded that he needs to review the by-laws of the board of directors.

Local law (ASCA 13.0103) states in part that the Board of Directors shall be constituted as follows:

•  two members with extensive financial or business management experience;

• one member who is an active or retired Medical Doctor;

• one member who has extensive health care administration, or public administration experience; and

•  one member at large.

Additionally, no more than two directors may have their primary residence outside of American Samoa and no director may serve while also employed by the Medical Center.

According to the governor’s nomination letter last month, Fa’amausili will fill the “member-at-large” post while Gaea is one of the individuals with financial experience.



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