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Primary Care will remain open says hospital board

Senators are pleased with the LBJ Medical Center board decision not to close the useful services of the Primary Care Clinic, but have noted that it will continue instead under the leadership of the Medical Clinic.


Primary Care service was one of the many issues discussed during a more than 90-minute Senate LBJ/Health Committee hearing on Tuesday chaired by Sen. Mauga T. Asuega. LBJ witnesses at the hearing were board chairman Mase Akapo, chief executive officer Joseph Davis-Fleming and chief medical officer Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga.


Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli recommended to LBJ not to close Primary Care, saying that this planned move had already prompted many public complaints and is a “big disappointment to me” as well as his colleagues in the Senate.


He noted that Primary Care provides easy and faster access to a physician by residents, including elderly senators, instead of going to the Medical Clinic unit where there is along wait of two-to-four hours,  to see a physician.


He recommended that LBJ continue the Primary Care unit, even if it’s transitioned into another hospital department so that this important service can continue for the community.


Mase then shared the good news with senators, saying that the Primary Care Clinic will continue, but under the leadership of the Medical Clinic. He also explained that Primary Care will take over seeing patients from the Emergency Room if there is a long line for the ER.


He explained that patients at the ER, who are considered by the attending physician as not serious and non-emergency patients will be referred to Primary Care.


What was not asked during the hearing was whether or not the clinic would continue to make appointments to allow patients to see it’s doctors, i.e. not turn into a ‘first come, first serve” service, which is typical of the ER and other medical clinics of the hospital.


Planned closure of the Primary Care caused a flurry from lawmakers in both the Senate and House and strong criticism from the community who believed that the hospital would be doing an injustice to resident’s medical needs by shutting it down.


Drama over the Primary Care unit surfaced in January this year when Saleapaga recommended to the LBJ board closure of the clinic, alleging low patient numbers, overstaffing, repetition of what the medical clinics are doing, and not being “cost effective”.


Dr. Sean A. Stracensky, who headed the Primary Care at the time, dismissed claims by Saleapaga, but subsequently tendered his letter of resignation on Feb. 26 with his last day on the job, Mar. 12. He has since left the territory, and Samoa News has received many calls about the hospital’s ‘great loss’ of a physician who cared for his patients.


Samoa News was told that Stracensky always took the time to talk to his patients about their illnesses, and always put them at ease regarding any medical condition they had. They trusted him.