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Red tape ties up plans for Domata Peko’s community medical clinic

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga
Gov says ASG never received a proposal for a medical clinic

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga says that the government never received a proposal from a group that wanted to set up a “medical clinic” in American Samoa and there was “no lease” for ASG land for this project.

Lolo made the surprising revelation at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, where he didn’t identify the name of the organization involved nor the name of the medical facility. But on the meeting’s agenda, it shows issues of discussion to include, Mission of Hope Community Health Center.

Lolo noted “something which happened last week for a ground breaking in Tafuna.” 

Samoa News/ Lali section had reported at least three times in the last few weeks — quoting Pastor Vaifanua Mulitauaopele that land has been secured at the ASG Tafuna Housing — across the street from Lions Park — for the proposed new Mission of Hope Community Health Center, which was to be dedicated last Thursday.

In a front page photo caption in last Friday’s edition Samoa News reported that the ground breaking was canceled due to heavy rain and that Denver Bronco’s Domata Peko and his wife Anna made a $500,000 donation to build the Domata & Anna Medical Hope Building for the project, which is spearheaded by the Mission of Hope Ministry and South Carolina based EAU Claire Medical Center, which operates 23 clinics in the US.

“Well, let me get this clear not only for the [news] media, but for the cabinet to understand,” Lolo told yesterday’s meeting. “We have no intention of discouraging businesses from coming to American Samoa.”

However, he said “we have a duty and responsibility” to ensure everyone follows the due process of law “especially when it comes to the heath of our people.”

According to the governor, he was “surprised when the group” contacted him last Wednesday about their grounding breaking the following day.

“I told the group, ‘they cannot do that because there is a due process which everything has to go through’,” Lolo recalled.

He also said, “What I’ve learned or what we found out is that, the only time we made contact with the group” wanting to setup a medical clinic here, is when Utu Abe Malae, “advised me for a piece of land for the project” and “I encouraged Utu, to go ahead and work [it] out and make sure that they meet all the requirements. And that was the last time (I heard) of this incident.”

The governor didn’t elaborate as to when Utu advised him, but Lolo did note that there have been pictures of the piece of land that the group had selected.

“But as far as getting an official proposal to the government, there was nothing. They’ve never told what [they] will do or what they plan to do,” said Lolo, who also said that there is “no lease” for any ASG land. “But we found out they wanted to establish a medical clinic or a medical service for our people, which is something good for our people.”

“However, there is a due process... to follow. Make sure they submit a proposal to the government and up til this day, no one has ever come with a proposal to the government,” he said, adding that once a proposal is submitted it’s then referred to the proper ASG agencies for review.

Additionally, “You cannot just walk in and groundbreak to do something unless all the requirements are met. We encourage people to come in and provide service to our people but there is a due process that every business has to follow.”

Lolo said he knows that some cabinet members were aware of this project and recommended all directors to “advise our community and the people who are involved that they follow the due process of law... especially in the health business. We don’t want to bear the responsibility of anything that happens to anybody.”

The governor said that ASG must make sure that the facility and those working as medical professions are properly certified in accordance with local health laws. He pointed to the ASG Health Regulatory Board which reviews credentials of medical professions to work here, as well as other ASG entities that are involved in certification of such a facility.

“We have to review everything, before they can [be] allowed to practice medicine in the territory,” he said and again reiterated to cabinet members “to help our people — explain the process to them — that even if you have money, you cannot just walk in and do something without following the due process of law.”

Responding to a request from the governor, Health Department director Motusa Tuileama identified ASG entities who are involved in such a matter. From the medical side, he said it’s LBJ Medical Center, Health Department and the ASG Medicaid Office, that sits down for thorough discussions.

On the business side, there is the Commerce Department which issues business license and for land use permit, it’s the Project Notification and Review System (PNRS) board.

Motusa said these agencies then put together a package and submit it to the governor for review and final decision. He said all these ASG entities should be working with this off island group and he hopes to be meeting soon with LBJ’s CEO, who is currently off island.

Utu was not at the cabinet meeting, with Governor Lolo explaining that Utu is off island on medical leave. The governor called on the cabinet to offer prayers and best wishes for Utu's fast recovery.