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ASG hasn't found long term fix for EMS funding

Some fifty-plus employees of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) of the LBJ Medical Center finally received their pay checks last Friday morning after some $100,0000 in funds were transferred from the ASG Treasury Department to LBJ following a meeting between ASG and hospital officials on the payroll allocation issue.

However, there is a big concern by some officials as to how long this money will last and Samoa News has learned that there are still no funds from ASG to cover other EMS expenditures such as materials, supplies and gas expenses.

Government pay day was last Monday, but EMS personnel didn’t get their paychecks, because there was no money or budget from ASG for EMS when it was transferred Jan. 1, 2012 from the Department of Public Safety, the hospital’s chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger told Samoa News. He also gave this testimony before the Senate Investigative Committee last week.

Samoa News received confirmation from three EMS employees that they were paid Friday morning and this information was also verified by a government official later in the day.

“Everyone is supposed to receive their pay check ” on Friday, the official —who didn’t want to be identified by name as he was not authorized to talk to the media —said late Friday morning. The official didn’t have the exact amount of money transferred from ASG’s coffers to LBJ, but said it was just over $100,000.

Responding to Samoa News questions, Gerstenberger said via e-mail Friday afternoon that EMS was paid in the morning and the “Treasurer has promised us $135,000 [on Friday] —that will only cover a few pay periods.”

“We will work with the governor and the Fono to identify additional funding for EMS for the remainder of the [fiscal] year,” he said.

The EMS budget submitted to the Fono last year for fiscal year 2012 - when EMS was with DPS - has a budget item of  $811,500 for personnel costs, to be funded with revenues collected. The EMS is in the FY 2012 budget under the  Enterprise Fund, which is composed of entities that fund their own operations through revenues collected. Examples of entities under Enterprise Fund are, ASPA, ASTCA, ASCC, and Airport Division.

The EMS budget document does not provide any additional money to pay other expenditures, such as materials and supplies; equipment; contractual service; and travel. It does show a subsidy of about $135,000, but that was deleted by the Fono during budget hearings last year.

Samoa News has learned that ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i met Thursday with Gerstenberger and hospital board chairman Moananu Va regarding funding for EMS and the hospital officials found that there was no money appropriated for EMS at all.

While there was $811,500 in the Enterprise Fund for EMS, the funding source for this amount is identified in government records as revenues collected from patients’ billings. However, EMS has not done any billing since 2008 when it was it was transferred to DPS, according to ASG sources.

Samoa News understands that during the meeting with LBJ officials, the Treasurer reportedly stated that there is just over $100,000 set aside for EMS for fringe benefits and this is the money that was transferred late Thursday to LBJ to pay EMS workers.

However, Samoa News has learned that this allocation of $100,000 plus can only cover up to four payrolls — but there is still no money to cover other EMS expenses such as fuel and medical supplies — which is currently being provided by the LBJ emergency department.

Any additional funds to cover all EMS expenses for the last six months of the current fiscal year will have to be appropriated by the Fono.

Lawmakers are currently in a mid session recess and will reconvene Mar.26 to continue the Special Session called by the governor, who will need to amend the Special Session call to include any appropriation bills for EMS. 

It’s unclear if this will be done.