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EMS sent back to LBJ Medical Center by executive order

The Emergency Medical Service has been transferred back to the LBJ Medical Center effective Jan. 1, 2012, in accordance with a Dec. 29, 2011 executive order signed by Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who had transferred EMS to the Department of Public Safety more than two years ago, also by executive order.

The transfer back to the hospital comes amid reports from LBJ and lawmakers about discussions being held among government leaders to have EMS returned to the hospital, where it was located for many years. Discussions between LBJ and DPS about the return of EMS were also noted in LBJ’s FY2011 fourth quarter performance report.

While EMS was officially transferred to DPS under an executive order in October 2008, the main station for EMS remained at the LBJ compound.

In the new executive order, Togiola said the Police Commissioner and the hospital chief executive officer shall make all necessary arrangements for the transfer of finance, personnel, and fixed and moveable assets, including but not limited to vehicles and equipment.

The order states that all EMS employees shall be transferred from the ASG Human Resources Department computer system to the LBJ human resources system and shall continue their employment “with at least all rights and benefits afforded them” by provisions of the American Samoa Administrative Code.

The governor also says that EMS “will be organized and constituted” within LBJ and that EMS “shall continue to provide and maintain the usual and customary services for the public without interruption.” The governor ordered that all arrangements for the transfer begin immediately.

Responding to a caller on his weekend radio program, the governor explained the reason EMS was transferred out of LBJ to begin with, WAS that EMS leaders had approached the executive branch with the message that EMS would be able to collect more revenues to support its service if they were a division within the government.

He also said that EMS officials argued that they could receive more grant funding if EMS was on its own, and so it was decided back in 2008 to carry out the transfer.

However, nothing has happened since it was transferred to the DPS and all of the positive messages by EMS administration didn’t came true, said Togiola, adding that the executive branch spent lots of money to fund EMS, which was another financial obligation for ASG.

So it was decided to return EMS to LBJ where it belongs, said Togiola, who pointed out that it was better to quickly correct a wrong of the past before it gets worse.

The EMS budget for FY 2012 was one of the issues hotly debated during the Fono’s budget hearings in September, as lawmakers tried to find out why EMS was not getting any share of the more than $1 million last year in Medicaid payment.

It was revealed at the hearing that EMS needed to do their own billing as well as get matching funds in order to be reimbursed by Medicaid.

Some House members believed that the EMS transfer to DPS was illegal under local law and that all money issues dealing with EMS should have been addressed before the division was transferred.

Rep. Larry Sanitoa said there is a “legal issue” at hand that needs to be addressed because provision of the law 13.0102(b) clearly states that one of the powers and duties of the hospital is “to provide mobile emergency services”. Said Sanitoa, “You can’t change the statute by an executive order."

In the end, the Fono took out the $135,000 that was in the proposed budget as an ASG subsidy to fund EMS, which was listed in the budget book under “Enterprise Fund”, meaning that is is self funded.

The budget for FY 2012 does provide regular funding for EMS from part of the DPS budget.