Fono’s Saturday session takes up malpractice insurance issue during tort debate
House Vice Speaker Talia Fa’afetai Iaulualo has suggested that the government, in the very near future, look at a law requiring medical personnel to obtain malpractice insurance in order to protect the government from having to pay lawsuits due to problems occurring at LBJ Medical Center or any other entity of government where medical personnel are employed.
Talia’s comments were made during Saturday’s discussion by the House Legal Affairs/Immigration Committee on an administration bill setting the ceiling of $500,000 on all tort liability claims against the government.
Current law does not provide for a ceiling and ASG officials testified early last week during a committee hearing that American Samoa is the only U.S. jurisdiction without a law that caps a liability suit against a local or state government.
Talia said if this measure is approved, it would place a limit on the liability paid by the government in lawsuits and this he supports it due to ASG’s limited financial resources.
On the other hand, he said, the government has not done its job in making sure that the government is not faced with lawsuits, which drain financial resources. For example, he said over the years there have been many malpractice suits brought against the LBJ Medical Center but there has been no move to require physicians and other medical personnel to obtain malpractice insurance to deal with these types of lawsuits.
He said the government should seriously look at a malpractice insurance law as well as getting insurance instead of being self-insured. He says the government only has property insurance, which is required by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava agreed that the government should get proper insurance to pay for lawsuits. He also agreed that physicians should be required to obtain malpractice insurance because the government has been held responsible for lawsuits coming out of LBJ for many years.
Under local law, the government is responsible for any lawsuits against the hospital. Samoa News should point out that the issue of malpractice insurance has been raised over the years in the Fono following many malpractice suits in court.
However, the issue never moved forward following testimony from ASG and LBJ officials that such malpractice insurance is not affordable by local physicians and such insurance would deter off island medical personnel from working in the territory.
More details from the House committee discussion in tomorrow’s edition.
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