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Faoa to chair Committee working with LBJ on reforms

Lt. Gov. Faoa A. Sunia is the chairman of a three-member Governor’s Committee appointed by Gov. Togiola Tulafono to work with the LBJ Medical Center board of directors to ensure that all issues outlined in the agreement between the administration and the hospital are addressed.

The appointment was first made public two weekends ago on the governor’s radio program, where Togiola spoke at length about the $3 million loan agreement with the hospital in which LBJ is to cancel any planned layoffs (instead, there will be imposed reduction of working hours for certain employees); return fees to previous levels; and LBJ will come up with fiscal reforms going forward.

The loan from the Workmen’s Compensation Account was made possible through a Fono bill signed by the governor two weeks ago.

Togiola said the hospital’s financial woes are not  yet over, and the $3 million is just a temporary solution. Therefore, he has appointed the Governor’s Committee to work with the LBJ board to ensure all provisions of the agreement with the administration are carried out.

He said Faoa will chair the panel which includes members Gaea Failautusi Pelefoti — who has a financial background — and the governor’s chief legal counsel Toetasi Tuiteleleapaga.

Faoa, who is also the Secretary of American Samoa, oversees the Medical Office which was transferred last year to the governor’s office. Togiola said Faoa will review all issues dealing with medicaid payments, reimbursement and matching funds for LBJ .

Togiola emphasized that part of the loan agreement calls for the hospital to continue to use the sliding scale program, which provides financial assistance to low income families. He said he made it clear that this program is to be fully utilized after getting complaints from the public, who weren’t being offered this program.

He said he is hopeful that by  the third quarter of the current fiscal year, some permanent long term solutions are in place.

He said some of these long term solutions include the need for the governor to continue working closely with the Fono on proposed financial measures to assist the hospital, in order for the medical center to have sufficient resources in place to prevent any future fee increases and to allow it to carry out its duties and responsibilities to the people of American Samoa.

One of the measures to assist the hospital is an $8 million loan from the ASG Employees Retirement Fund, but this bill was tabled in committee when three main government witnesses didn’t attend a hearing last Thursday.

The witnesses — ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i; Retirement Fund board chairman Aleki Sene Sr. and Retirement Fund Office executive director Filisouaiga Ta’afua — were all off island last week.  It’s unclear if the House will call another hearing later this week to review the measure before the Fono. The current 3rd regular session ends March 9.

Not yet introduced in the Fono is the administration bill seeking $10 million to fund the hospital’s off-island medical referral program.