Vice Chair of LBJ board: Recruiting physicians, nurses is our most important goal
The Vice Chair of the hospital board, Tofaeono Dr. Victor Tofaeono says the hospital CEO Joseph Davis-Fleming is not familiar with the physicians that he and Hospital Board Chairman Mase Akapo are trying to recruit to come work for the local hospital.
Tofaeono, who is the Acting Chair as Mase is off-island recruiting, was responding to Samoa News queries as to why members of the hospital Board were traveling off island to recruit physicians and nurses, when recruiting and hiring of physicians and nurses is the responsibility of the Hospital CEO.
The acting chair told Samoa News that usually he does not comment on issues raised, however the chairman is off island and he wants to correct any misconceptions floating around about his trip. “This is my first trip, not the third, to recruit physicians and nurses.”
The matter was first raised by a hospital board member who wished not to be named and other hospital officials who questioned why hospital board members are recruiting, yet it’s not part of their duties.
Tofaeono pointed out that hospital officials asking questions should reach out to the hospital Board for answers. “We have nothing to hide and are simply trying to lend a hand during a very crucial time for staffing at LBJ.”
According to the Hospital Board bylaws — “Basic Board Roles” — the hospital management is responsible for the day-to-day task of running the hospital. “The board delegates the day-to-day management to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
“The CEO and the senior leadership team is guided but not directed, by the governing board. They lead the hospital’s staff to carry out the mission and vision that has been developed and approved by the governing board.”
According to the bylaws the roles and responsibilities of the governing board involve everything from ensuring the cost effective utilization of resources to determining the hospital’s mission and establishing a long range strategic plan to help attain that mission.
“The board has primary responsibility in six key areas; Ensuring the achievement of the hospital’s mission, vision and strategic direction; Ensuring quality and patient safety; Building strong board/CEO relationships; Providing informed and effective financial leadership and oversight; Advocating for the hospital’s interest and building strong community relations, and Medical staff credentialing.”
A hospital board member who did not want to be named told Samoa News there’s nothing in the bylaws indicating that board members, “namely the Chairman and Vice Chairman should be the ones going off island to recruit physicians and nurses and that the trips are paid for by the hospital.”
The board member asked, “Does it take two people to recruit physicians and nurses?”
Tofaeono explained there are several U.S. trained Samoan medical doctors practicing in Hawai’i, and in the US Mainland, whose medical school expenses were footed by the American Samoan Government. “In return, they were asked to come back and contribute to the healthcare of the American Samoan people, by becoming physicians at the LBJ hospital. Even though some have returned for short terms, I would like to see them return for longer periods, as (CMO) Dr. Saleapaga and I have done.”
The Acting Chairman said that because the CEO is not familiar with these physicians, he offered to follow up “on a plan I had since becoming a board member, which is to visit these Samoan doctors and appeal to them to come home and help in our time of need.”
When the CEO asked Tofaeono to represent LBJ in a meeting of the Cancer Council of the Pacific Islands in Guam Mar. 12 to 15th, Tofaonoe said that was the opportunity to visit the doctors.
While LBJ cannot pay the physicians U.S salaries, he felt that maybe he can appeal to their sense of national pride because he believes that “THIS IS INDEED THE TIME FOR ALL GOOD MEN /WOMEN TO COME TO THE AID OF THEIR COUNTRY.”
“In the case of Saleapaga and myself, we know that the only reason we have the M.D behind our names is because of the financial assistance, during medical school, from the Government of American Samoa,” he said.
“We will not forget that, and that’s why we have stayed for longer than the two years ASG required for us to come home and serve. It has been more than rewarding for us as I am sure it will be for these other doctors if they decide to return home. We sincerely also take our hats off to all the doctors and nurses and everyone else employed at LBJ who are doing such a great job of managing the business of healthcare for our people. Faamalo tele atu lava mo la outou tautua.”
He explained that he and Mase had been contacted by some allied health individuals in Honolulu, including nurses, who would like to hear about the chance to work here. “They are all Samoans and Mase and I have scheduled meetings with them through the efforts of Chief Afimutasi Gus Hanneman and Retired Command Sargent Major Ilaoa in Honolulu this week.”
Tofaeono then stated that the expenses, including airfare and hotel, are provided by the University of Hawaii, while LBJ is paying for the days when he will be recruiting, which will also include meetings with Lam Associates of Hawai’i, a doctor recruiting firm that supported LBJ’s physician needs when Tofaeono was Chief Medical Officer at LBJ.
“We urgently need specialists in internal medicine, endocrinology, nephrology, emergency room care, and the intensive care unit. In my humble opinion, locating these doctor specialists and finding qualified nurses is our most important goal at LBJ.”
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