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American Samoa’s telehealth capacity grows with $400,000+ FCC grants

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — LBJ Medical Center and the Health Department’s Tafuna Family Health Center have been awarded more than $400,000 in telehealth funding relating to COVID-19 from the US Federal Communications Commission.

FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced yesterday the approval of the first group of funding commitments under Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and commits a total of $41.98 million in funding to 62 health care providers located in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia.

Summary information released by the FCC says that LBJ Medical Center was awarded $334,519 for telehealth equipment to facilitate consultations and remote ultrasound sessions with OB/GYN specialists as well as follow-up visits with patients unable to visit in-person due to COVID-19.

The DoH health center was awarded $187,297 for telehealth equipment to provide contactless primary, dental, women's health, pharmacy, and pediatric care.

The FCC established the telehealth program in April 2020 pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide $200 million in emergency funding to health care providers for telehealth and connected care services in response to COVID-19.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to health care has proven to be not only a national issue, but also a local issue, and it is imperative that every community is given the tools to access this care as safely and effectively as possible,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a national news release. “The FCC is committed to ensuring that every state and territory in the United States receives funding as part of this program.”

As previously reported by Samoa News, LBJ filed on May 5th three separate grant applications with the FCC totaling $334,519 for telehealth funding.  One request was  $147,600, for “High Capacity Internet Service for LBJ Hospital to accommodate telemedicine applications and use, due to closure of borders, and inability of patients or physicians to travel.

The second highest grant amount request was $105,840 for “Dedicated Internet Services Link to provide Ultrasound teleclinic sessions with OB/GYN Specialists in the state of Hawaii” and the third grant request, for $81,079, is to fund telecom services for internet and devices to allow for physicians exposed and infected with COVID-19 to continue to provide telehealth services in isolation or quarantine.  (See Samoa News edition May 10th for details.)

DoH filed an application on May 6th requesting total funding of just over $187,000 for broadband, internet connection, local loop, mobile wifi, mobile wifi devices, tablets, and cell phones. (See Samoa News edition May 11th for details.)