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Togiola threatens to dissolve LBJ hospital board by Wednesday

Governor Togiola Tulafono has given the LBJ Hospital Authority and Hospital Board up to Wednesday, saying that if there is no indication to end the layoff of 274 staff members and change the higher fees which are already in place, he will dissolve the hospital board and transfer the hospital back under the government’s wing.

That was the message from the governor during his radio program over the weekend, which was delivered in Samoan, as is the usual for his program.

He also commented on his disappointment with the medical staff for gathering to protest at Utulei Beach last Thursday, saying they only wanted the government to look bad, while of the doctors that waited at his office all day, he said it was a waste of time,  and they took up space in his office.

The governor, in addition, angrily berated the newspaper for focusing on the negative, a repeat of his rant from the week before. Again, he did not identify the newspaper by name.

Togiola said that this is what he told the hospital management team and Chairman of the board members last Thursday during their meeting on the current crisis at the hospital.

The governor assured the hospital staff members who received layoff letters--mainly doctors and nurses-- that it will not happen. “No one will lose their job, despite the announcements and the layoff letters received by staff members, he said. He counseled them to be patient and “continue your service to the community.”

“We are now looking into the salaries of the management team and still looking for options and ways to deal with this predicament”, said Togiola.  

He said he had publicly announced the problem the government encountered, when government employee’s working hours had to be  reduced. He added the government was in a situation where they were not able to pay ASPA, the college, and the hospital.

“What did the hospital do about it? Nothing they just hired more people, a couple, one who makes $90,000 and one who makes $100,000 which increased the cost of spending and did not help the financial situation at all”, he said.

The governor said he’s already told the Chairman of the Hospital Board and the Hospital’s CEO that he will not accept the layoff of nurses and doctors. “If there is a plan to lay off anyone, start with the top officials who are making high salaries, because if they are laid off, it does not affect anyone, but if nurses and doctors are removed this would affect the patient care of the public”, said the governor.

Togiola then announced that if by next week, there is no change from the hospital he will make the changes, which will allow staff members to carry on with their jobs and duties in serving the community, without having to lay off anyone.

The governor also voiced his disappointment with the employees of the LBJ hospital who showed up at Utulei Beach in an attempt to march to the governor’s office last Thursday and present their signed petition. More than 100 hospital employees from various divisions — doctors, nurses and technicians had gathered at Utulei Beach for the march, which in the end did not take place.

He said what the LBJ employees did was an attempt to make the government look bad. He asked if this was the case, what solution had they come up with from the march to solve the financial situation at the hospital.

“Nothing, they just wanted to make the government look bad”, Togiola said.

The governor said he told his secretary to inform the doctors waiting in his office to go back to work and not waste their time. “Not only they wasted their time, they also took up space in my office”, he said. 

The governor added that while the medical staff were waiting outside, he was meeting with the Hospital officials and they were exploring options and looking for ways to solve the issue at hand.

Togiola then angrily denounced the newspaper, saying that with everything good going on, the newspaper only sought the negative.

The governor pointed to the sign that was on the front page of the paper, which said “Governor don’t play politics with people’s lives”, as an example. He claimed having the LBJ staff at the Utulei beach with such signs were an eye sore (tiga mata).

He said if any lives were lost that day (Thursday) it was not because of him, it was because the LBJ staff should have been at work serving the community.

According to the hospital, the financial situation they are struggling with is due to  the government's failure to pay over $3 million of mandated subsidies in the last fiscal year. For FY 2012, the last known payment of the subsidy happened in December of 2011.