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LBJ delivers formal notice— fees go up next week, Feb 6

LBJ Medical Center is forecasting that it will not be able to meet its payroll later next month and therefore the hospital board of directors have informed Gov. Togiola Tulafono of LBJ’s intention to move forward with the fee hike to be implemented Feb. 6.

Board chairman Moananu Va, in a Jan. 27 letter, reminded the governor that on Dec. 3 — following “our meeting on Nov. 21, 2011” — the medical center published its intent to increase the facility fees charged for patients and this action was prompted by the shortfalls resulting from ASG’s failure to provide appropriated subsidy to LBJ during the last fiscal year.

(LBJ officials had written to the governor and the Fono and have also testified in the Fono that the FY 2011 subsidy shortfall was close to $3 million)

Moananu pointed out that both the governor and the Fono had requested a delay in the fee hike that was to go into effect Dec. 24 and the hospital complied with a postponement to Jan. 14 to allow the government time to come up with a financial aid package for the hospital.

On Jan. 13, Moananu informed LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger, that the hike will be delayed again for another 20 days.

“We have delayed the increase twice,” wrote Moananu to the governor in the Jan. 27 letter. “It has been over sixty days since we met and we have not seen the emergency funding that was discussed.”

He said the hospital appreciates that bills have been introduced in the Fono and hearings have occurred “but those actions have not yet resulted in tangible financial assistance to keep the hospital open.”

“Our cash projections now indicate we will be unable to pay vendors or make payroll on Feb. 22,” said Moananu. “Therefore, this letter is our formal notice that the new facility fees... will become effective on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012.”

Copies of the letter were sent to Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, Senate Health Committee chairman Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, and House Health Committee chairman Rep. Pulele’iite L. Tufele.

The Senate has already passed more than $5 million worth of supplemental funding for LBJ and one measure to provide permanent funding. These measures are now with the House for consideration and approval.

At yesterday’s session the House approved in second reading two of the Senate bills. One measure provides for $1.6 million — $800,000 of which goes to LBJ and the balance for FEMA matching funds — and the other bill provides $253,000 for the hospital. Both bills are scheduled for third and final reading today.