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Gov makes good on threat; moves to abolish Hospital Authority

Making good on his threat made over the weekend, Gov. Togiola Tulafono has sent to the Fono legislation that seeks to repeal the law that established the American Samoa Medical Center Authority and return the LBJ Medical Center to the jurisdiction of the ASG Department of Health.

On his weekend radio program, Togiola said that if the hospital went ahead with the fee hikes (that went into effect at 8 a.m. yesterday) he would send a bill to the Fono to dissolve the hospital authority and return LBJ to the government.

LBJ officials have publicly stated that they are in dire need of additional funds to assist hospital operations as the hospital would be running out of cash in two weeks time.

“It is my fervent belief that through the ASG’s budget system, we will be able to find the short-term relief that our Medical Center so desperately needs,” Togiola wrote in the cover letter to the Fono leadership that includes the proposed bill.

He said it’s no secret that in tough economic times, ASG has weathered some extremely severe financial crises through fiscal austerity measures and belt-tightening.

“I intend to apply these short term measures to the ASG as a whole once the Medical Center is brought within the Department of Health,” he noted. “Further, the fee schedules that are being proposed for the people to pay at our hospital is [sic] too far out of proportion to what each family is actually able to afford at this time.”

“American Samoa has a per capita income level of approximately $8,000. According to the proposed fee schedule, a family’s monthly allotment for food and necessities would be far outstripped by a single week’s visit to the hospital,” he said.

“This is an unacceptable situation which I believe can be remedied through greater fiscal control and a more realistic reliance on subsidies,” said Togiola, who urged the Fono “to support the speedy passage of this important legislation.”

In a separate statement released after 2:30 p.m. yesterday, Togiola said the only things that will change with this proposed legislation are the dissolution of the hospital board and a repeal from the law the position of Chief Executive Officer.

“In preparation for the transition, I am appointing two senior officials from my administration to meet with LBJ this Wednesday to review all the finances and financial records of the authority in order to effect an expedient and smooth transition,” said Togiola. “I will be appointing, in cooperation with the Acting Director of Health, a responsible person to help manage the hospital as soon as we  receive it back from the Authority.”

Togiola said all other positions existing under the operation of the Hospital Authority will be carried out until further notice. All medical operations of the hospital are expected to remain the same, except the new rates will be cancelled as soon as the transfer back to the government is finalized, he said.

The senior officials were not identified in the statement.