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LBJ files grant applications for FCC COVID-19 Telehealth funding

LBJ Hospital sign

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Through three separation grant applications filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the LBJ Medical Center is seeking more than $300,000 under the FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Funding program to — among other things — support telehealth service with off island medical personnel.

All three grant applications — totaling $334,519 — were filed May 5th by the hospital’s chief information officer, Ray Tala Tulafono Jr., according to FCC online public records, which also states that the telehealth program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services. 

According to the FCC, the program provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For LBJ, the highest grant application request amount is $147,600, which is 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,” says the applicant on the “goals and objectives” for use of the funds.

LBJ explained that the hospital has had to rely heavily on increased Internet usage at a high communication cost to the hospital, which pays for a telecom VLAN circuit satellite outpatient pharmacy at busy Community Health Center in a busy populated area.

“As a result of COVID restrictions, this satellite pharmacy was established to cut congestion from number of patients coming into the main hospital campus,” the hospital said. “LBJ also had to provide a new direct VLAN connection to an Emergency Medical Services site and proposed drive thru pharmacy site on the West side of the [main] island to cut congestion and allow patients less face-to-face interactions with pharmacy staff.”

(The satellite pharmacy referred to in the application is located at the Tafuna Community Health Center)

Description of service to be funded with this grant amount, is “High capacity Internet Services for campus wide LBJ Hospital and dedicated secure VLAN Services for remote sites to deal with COVID,” the application states.

 The second highest grant amount request is $105,840 for “Dedicated Internet Services Link to provide Ultrasound teleclinic sessions with OB/GYN Specialists in the state of Hawaii.”

“Because of COVID, the American Samoa borders have been closed and medical specialists have not been able to travel to American Samoa. Also patients have not been able to travel to Hawaii for specialty consultations,” said LBJ.

Additionally the High Capacity Internet links will also provide advance diagnostics clinic consultations from the Emergency Department and Queens Medical in Honolulu for tele-stroke patients.

“Also devices are requested for use by physicians when COVID-19 restrictions further limits patients access into the clinics. OB/GYN clinic is the highly utilized clinic and will be impacted by further patient restrictions into the hospital campus,” according to the application.

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.

LBJ points out that the hospital has very limited health care physicians on staff. And any exposure to COVID-19 “will result in our physicians being isolated in quarantine or home isolation.”

“This request for equipment and network infrastructure to allow for physicians to communicate when isolated or quarantined into the hospital to continue patient management via remote consultations via video and voice,” the applicant states.

The request is for internet services and devices to accommodate COVID-19 infections of physicians and allowi our limited number of physicians (if they are exposed to COVID) to still be able to provide some level of patient care through telemedicine and video conferencing.

“American Samoa is very isolated and currently still has extreme restrictions on travel,” said LBJ and reiterated that there are limited physicians at the hospital that manage inpatients and outpatient clinics. “If physicians were to get infected and isolated, this will provide consultative via video into the hospital units by the physician.”

Per LBJ’s request, all supporting documents filed with FCC are kept confidential and not publicly released, according to the application.

Details on the new FCC funding can be accessed online at: []