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LBJ implements $20 facility fee for dialysis patients

The LBJ Medical Center is now implementing a facility fee of $20 for dialysis visits that was suppose to have already been in place last July.


Dialysis patients told Samoa News staff last week that they were informed by employees of the LBJ Dialysis Unit that they will begin charging the $20 dialysis facility fee next week.


Several patients said they visit the hospital at least three times a week to get dialysis treatments and they worry that the fee could be as high as $60 per week.


However, an explanation from LBJ CEO Mike Gerstenberger revealed that the facility fee will be no more than $20 per week.


Responding to Samoa News questions last Friday morning, Gerstenberger explained that the hospital proposed facility fee increases for many Hospital and Clinic services in May 2012.  A public hearing on the proposed changes was held on June 8, 2012.


Following the Public Hearing, the LBJ board approved the proposed facility fee increases and they became effective in July 2012. He said one of the fees included in that fee schedule change was a facility fee for the use of the Dialysis Clinic.


“Prior to that time, dialysis patients were unique in that they had never been charged a facility fee for the dialysis services they received at LBJ,” Gerstenberger said. “The facility fee established for dialysis was $20 per visit but not to exceed a maximum of $20 per week.”


“For a variety of technical and administrative reasons, this fee is just being implemented now in the dialysis area. Regular dialysis patients are asked to pay $20 per week for their dialysis services. This fee is the same for residents and non-residents.”


LBJ, along with the Department of Health and local health coalitions have raised concerns over the increase in number of dialysis patients in the territory. Last November, the hospital official launched a new service called Care Management program, which is intended to improve the quality of life for those patients with Non-Communicable Diseases, or NCDs, targeting patients, who among other things, don’t take their medication as required, or keep appointments with their physicians.


“Our goal initially is to try and target those essentially pre-dialysis patients to prevent patients from becoming dialysis patients,” Gerstenberger told reporters at the launching of the new program.


The hospital’s first quarter performance report for 2013 shows that dialysis visits have increased. There were 4,240 dialysis visits recorded for Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2012 - an increase of 161 visits from the same time period in FY 2012 (Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2011).