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Galea’i : ASG is responsible for LBJ fiscal crisis, not hospital employees

LBJ Medical Center’s plans to implement a reduction of working hours for certain employees over the weekend, has been described by Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli as a “punishment” imposed on employees, who are innocent of any wrongdoing when it comes to the financial crisis faced by the only medical center in the territory.

Galeai, who is also chairman of the Senate Health/LBJ Hospital Committee, has since scheduled a committee hearing for next Tuesday. Witnesses being called to testify on the financial condition of the hospital as well as the reduction of working hours are LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger, chief financial officer Viola Babcock and board chairman Moananu Va.

Working hour reductions are set to be in effect this Sunday and this personnel action is part of the agreement between LBJ and the Togiola administration on cost saving measures in order to get the $3 million money loaned by the government from the Workmen’s Compensation Account.

The reduction in hours are as follows: four hours deduction for employees getting paid up to $20,800 annually; six hours deduction for wage earners of between $20,801 and $49,999; eight hours deducted for $50,000 to $62,399; and 12 hours deduction for salary earners $62,400 and above.

Meanwhile, Galeai told his colleagues this week that the hospital issue is one that has been discussed widely within the community, because it continues to affect everyone — through the planned reduction of working hours — despite the $3 million money approved to help the hospital.

He said the governor and the LBJ board’s decision to implement layoffs is a clear indication that employees are being punished for something they didn’t do, and they had no hand in the financial crisis faced by the hospital.

“The cause of the financial crisis at the hospital is due mainly to ASG’s failure to pay required monthly subsidies, which were approved by the Fono and signed into law in the budget bill,” said the Manu’a senator, who points out that the ASG had also failed to give required subsidies to other semi autonomous agencies, such as the American Samoa Community College.

He said matters dealing with the hospital are a public issue and employees should not be affected but instead, have the financial woes faced by LBJ handled by the government, which is responsible for providing sufficient funding. 

He again reiterated that the major issue here is the lack of ASG paying subsidies as required by law.

LBJ says the government didn’t pay close to $3 million in subsidies in FY 2011, and for FY 2012, ASG has paid $1.31 million in subsidies between September and January. LBJ is banking on having ASG pay the monthly subsidy — which is $354,000 — for the rest for the current fiscal year (from February to September) to ensure continued revenue streams.

Galeai has requested several pieces of information from the hospital for next Tuesday’s hearing, among those is a request for the written agreement between LBJ and the Togiola Administration for the $3 million from the ASG loan bill.

Galeai said the Senate wants to review the agreement to see if there are any other provisions added in the document that were not part of the loan bill approved by the Fono.

Sen. Fonoti T. Aufata supported Galeai’s call for a hearing, adding that it’s important for the Senate to find out the total savings to the hospital from the reduction in working hours,  which should not be done, she said, because the Fono has already approved the $3 million loan bill.

In support of the committee hearing, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie said the Senate should also obtain and review all salaries for hospital employees and other supportive personnel information.

Gaoteote also voiced his concern over the Governor’s Committee appointed to work with the hospital management team. He said this type of arrangement could have an impact on the hospital carrying out its duties and responsibilities.