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Clinics: Austerity measures now in effect at LBJ

LBJ Medical Center is moving forward this week with more austerity measures as part of the agreement the hospital reached last month with Gov. Togiola Tulafono in order for the medical center to receive the $3 million the government borrowed from the Workmen’s Compensation Account.

Hospital chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger said that effective Mar. 9, all outpatient clinics — except for the Dialysis Clinics and Family Planning clinics — will be closed on Fridays, until further notice.

“This is a temporary cost saving measure and will be lifted as soon as the financial situation of LBJ improves and after fulfillment of the agreement with the American Samoa Government to reduce working hours in return for the $3 million… received” last month, said Gerstenberger in a public announcement released to the news media last Friday.

According to LBJ, patients with appointments scheduled for any Friday after Mar.9 have been contacted and have been rescheduled, but those who have not been reached are asked to contact the clinic as soon as possible.

Reduction of working hours went into effect yesterday and Samoa News reported last week that this personnel action is temporary, running from this month to the end of the payroll in June. Also yesterday, contract employees and others exempted from the reduction of working hours were given the chance to voluntarily join the reduction of work hours.

Meanwhile, LBJ “strongly encouraged” the public to use the Department of Health’s community health centers in Tafuna, Leone and Amouli during working hours for non-emergency injuries and illness. This will avoid long wait times in the Emergency Room and allow the medical staff to attend to the more serious cases sooner.

“Additionally, LBJ... is taking every step available to reduce costs and overhead in order to provide the most cost efficient care possible to the public,” the announcement said. For example, staff reduction after working hours and on the weekends have been implemented and LBJ is asking the public to bring only serious injuries and illnesses to the Emergency Room after working hours and on weekends.

Also effective Mar. 9, the Pharmacy will not be filling ‘refills’ on weekends or holidays due to limited staff on duty resulting in the reduction in working hours.

New pharmacy hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; and 8 a.m. to 12noon on the weekends and holidays.