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Senate holds closed door hearing on Dr. Saleapaga

The Senate Health/Hospital Committee held an emergency closed door hearing yesterday morning after it was informed by the Senate President’s Office about Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga, who was surprised to learn that he is no longer an employee of the LBJ Medical Center.

Because the issue pertains to personnel matters and the serious allegations by the hospital against Dr. Saleapaga, the committee — chaired by Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli — met with LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger inside a Senate office.

Gerstenberger could only tell Samoa News that as of Tuesday this week, Dr. Saleapaga is no longer employed at LBJ and declined to comment further on personnel matters. Dr. Saleapaga said the hospital didn’t renew his contract for two years, after it expired in August.

After the closed door meeting with Gerstenberger, Galeai said the committee didn’t know the immediate reason for the emergency meeting until yesterday morning when more information was received. He said the closed meeting was due to the seriousness of the charges laid by the hospital against Dr. Saleapaga and the insistence of the CEO not to renew the doctor’s contract.

“Given the gravity of the allegations” by the LBJ CEO, the Senate President was informed about the meeting behind closed doors, he said.

“ law, the Fono, our committee, confirms the board members, who are appointed by the governor and the board is given responsibility to manage the hospital. They in turn select a CEO,” he said. “So by virtue of the law, the Fono has no responsibility whatsoever [on personnel matters], except to see as to whether the law is being followed or not by LBJ.”

“And that’s why we’ve decided… not to render any decision or go into a committee of the whole until the whole board of the hospital can gather a quorum” to look at the allegations by the CEO and review them, said Galeai.

He reiterated that the hospital board “is the governor’s board — the board is appointed by the governor — we have nothing to do with the appointment of the board. So by virtue of that — if Saleapaga wants any recourse, it’s through the board to the governor, but not to the Fono.

In other words, it’s the governor’s “purview to look into this matter” pertaining to Dr. Saleapaga, he said.

Galeai said that there has been no official statement to the committee from Dr. Saleapaga, who has already responded to the CEO and the board. He also said that the board chairman Moananu Va is off island and should deal with this matter upon his return.

The specific allegations by the CEO were not immediately clear and Galeai opted to leave the issue up to the board for full consideration. 

Meanwhile, the LBJ staff got another surprise this week — an Oct. 1st memo from Gerstenberger states that Dr. Aloiamoa Anesi — who has been with the hospital for three decades — has been replaced by Dr. Akapusi Ledua as the new chief medical officer (CMO).

Anesi, who has held the CMO post for the last five years and became the LBJ spokesperson at the peak of the  dengue fever issue during his CMO tenure, is reassigned to head the hospital’s Care Management Department, that oversees efforts to combat non communicable diseases.