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Velega says hospital board’s function is not to manage LBJ

“The function of the hospital board is to establish policy that governs the hospital and oversee the operation of the hospital, but it’s not the function of the board to operate and manage the hospital,” a furious hospital board member Velega Savali told Samoa News on Friday.


Velega was taking issue with comments made by hospital board chairman Mase Akapo published in Samoa News last week where Mase stated, “All questions regarding management and operation of the LBJ Medical Center are sent to the Chairman of the Board and if he’s unavailable the second person to contact is Dr. Victor Tofaeono, who is the Vice Chairman of the Board.” 


Mase told Samoa News that hospital policy is that no employee is allowed to release any information to the media regarding management and operation of the hospital without prior approval of the board, and violators of this policy, when caught, will be dealt with appropriately.


Velega, on the other hand said the hospital board has its mandates and operating and managing the hospital is not one of those mandates. He pointed out that they were chosen by the governor to oversee the operation for the betterment of the people and not waste time on issues that other people are paid to handle.


Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga is keen and committed to his mandate on the open door policy to the media and it’s the directors and agency heads whom he (the governor) has chosen to speak to the media, which is something the that hospital board should honor and respect and not get involved with issuing comments on issues at the hospital, unless necessary, said Velega.


Mase told Samoa News that the board shares the Governor's mandate on transparency and will continue to work toward that goal. “However, the board governs and sets policies on how the hospital should be run, and as such, we believe the board should be the correct forum where information should be obtained,” Mase said.


Velega also takes issue with the board being involved in hiring at the hospital. “All of a sudden the hospital board is doing Human Resources’ job and hiring the Chief Medical Officer and reinstating the Deputy Medical Officer position, something that the board should not be involved with, because it’s a conflict of interest. The board, after hiring an employee, might then be in the position of being called upon to conduct a hearing in a job related dispute.


Velega gave an example of this conflict of interest, pointing to the what he characterizes as CMO Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga’s “act of insubordination” when he wrote directly to the hospital board to close down the Primary Care Clinic, by-passing the authority of the CEO. 


The board rehired Dr. Saleapaga late last month after what Samoa News understands was a conflict of interest between the previous hospital CEO and the doctor.


And in less than a month of rehiring the Dr. Saleapaga, another conflict seems to be brewing between the doctor and the current CEO, Joseph Davis Fleming, who has threatened to tender his resignation following Saleapaga’s move asking the hospital board — directly — by-passing the authority of the CEO, to discontinue the services provided at the Primary Care Clinic.


In Fleming’s letter to the hospital board leaked to Samoa News, he said, "There apparently must be a major misunderstanding about the role of a CEO and the question of who is actually running the hospital," Fleming said.


Velega said that all of the sudden Saleapaga thinks he can by-pass policies and by-passes the CEO.


Efforts to obtain comments from Dr. Saleapaga and chairman of the hospital board were not successful at press time.