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Dear Editor,

I am writing this ‘open letter appreciation’ to tell your readers a little bit about our ‘off-island referral’ program. Several months ago I was given the great good fortune of being sent to Auckland, NZ to have major surgery through our wonderful referral program. In a word, the whole experience was simply fantastic.

Sandra Young and her staff at the Medicaid office have put together a great program for the people of American Samoa. And I want to say how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this program. Everything about it is truly ‘first rate’.

I would like to encourage our Fono members and other members of the government to continue this program by ensuring its funding. As I am sure many know, the cost of healthcare in the US is very high, however in NZ the very same quality of healthcare is a mere fraction of that cost. And when I say quality — I mean it is as good as what would be found in the US.

From the moment I left I was truly in the best of hands. I was greeted both in Apia, Samoa and Auckland by someone holding a sign with my name on it, and it felt that I was as they say in God’s pocket.

The staff in NZ was also great. As it turned out, my surgery had some minor complications, and at every turn I was merely a phone call away from help by the staff. Everything was arranged in advance for doctor appointments, transportation and lodging. I was in awe of the care and kindness shown me by all the wonderful people both here on our island and in NZ.

So — again, I wish to convey my appreciation to ALL the staff members of this superb program. We need to keep it alive and well by ensuring that funding needs are met.

I ask that the Fono recognize just what a jewel this program is, and how important for all of us it is; and, what better way to show all American Samoa that their leaders do indeed have their best interests at heart.

May the Lord continue to bless and guide those who have this program work so well for us.

Faafetai tele lava,

Michael Park

[Editor’s Note: The Fono does not have anything to do with this Medicaid Program — it is, I believe 100% federally funded; and unfortunately, the program’s funding is due to run out in September of this year, unless Young is able to work something out with the feds otherwise — which is complicated and probably not doable overnight, if at all.

The Fono only reviewed the off-island program to NZ — they had a hearing — because some faipule were concerned about why only ‘American Samoa nationals’ and US citizens were being allowed to participate. They were told by Young that it’s a federal requirement, period. ra]