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LBj hearing reveals 52% of funding goes to payroll

Close to 30 people attended yesterday’s public hearing on the hospital's proposal to increase hospital facility fees, which were deferred from last month until this public forum is carried out.

LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger told the audience the hospital needs to increase revenues in order to meet the hike in costs of operations noting that they have not been able to cover other important capital purchase due to the lack of money.

For example, he said, the mammogram machine has been down for 10 months and there is no money available to have it return back to service and this is one of the reasons the hospital needs to raise fees.

He told the gathering that 52% of the hospital’s fiscal year 2012 budget of around $37 million goes to payroll expenses.

Samoa News after doing some research on the internet, finds that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures from 2008 (the most recent available), the industry standard for healthcare was a 52 percent ratio.

Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen was among the attendees and reminded Gerstenberger that LBJ’s “mission is to provide quality care for our people” and “it's an important mission” for the only hospital in the territory.

“And as a CEO of the hospital - with all due respect sir - you need to make drastic decisions,” he said, adding that the mammogram machine has been down and that does not sit well with him. “I’m sitting here and my stomach is boiling because my sister passed away because of breast cancer.”

“You said 10 months without a mammogram machine and that’s something that bothers me,” he told Gerstenberger, who agreed saying, “I am bothered as well.”

“I can’t wait 10 months, we are talking about the lives of people,” said Faimealelei and suggested that the CEO look at cutting money from personnel costs to fund pressing needs. “And if you talk to me about that [mammogram machine], I tell you, I’ll fight tooth and nail to get the money to buy the mammogram [machine] through the Fono.”

No mention was made of the agreement Governor Togiola demanded as part of the last $3 million loan to LBJ, from the Workmen's Compensation account, to restore hospital employees' hours and implement austerity measures in other areas. Details of what austerity measures the governor was referring to were not disclosed to the public.

Faimealelei also pointed out the air condition in the surgical ward area has been out of service since last year, with just fans now being used.

It was revealed during the public hearing that LBJ intends to present its budget proposal of around $40 million for the new fiscal year 2013 to the LBJ board yesterday afternoon. The FY 2013 annual budget for ASG will be a priority when lawmakers return next month for the 4th and final session of the 32nd Legislature.

More information on the public hearing will be published in Monday’s edition.