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Attorney confirms valid lease on land earmarked for new hospital

Chief of Staff Loa Tauapa’i Laupola
It was signed by former Gov. Lolo, NightHawk’s lawyer says

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Attorney for NightHawk Company, Marcellus Talalelei Uiagalelei confirmed that his client has an existing lease where the new hospital is set to be built in the Tafuna Industrial Park.

 “The lease was signed by [former] Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga the last week he was in office.

“The lease is valid,” said Uiagalelei.

The lawyer made comments after the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Moefaauo Bill Emmsley confirmed there is a dispute with a company that has an existing lease on the specific lot on which the proposed new hospital would be built.

As reported earlier, Moefaauo said the NightHawk Company is taking legal action against the government over this land.

 “As you know we cannot move on with this project when the land in question is being disputed,” said Moefaauo.

Last month the hospital CEO said given the lease dispute it would be better if the government consider “diverting funding” for the new $21 million hospital to upgrade the current hospital.

However that proposal was flatly rejected by the Lemanu and Talauega administration.

Chief of Staff Loa Tauapa’i Laupola in response to questions from Samoa News said the Governor's guidance on the new hospital has not changed.

In follow up questions to Loa regarding concerns there is not enough manpower such as nurses and doctor for the current hospital and yet the government continues to pursue the new hospital, Loa said there is ample time to address those issues.

“We have enough time to come up with a plan to resource the new hospital,” said Loa.

As reported earlier by Samoa News, $50 million of the $300 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act is allocated for recruitment, retention, and retraining of staff at LBJ and the proposed new 40-bed facility in Tafuna.

 “Funding to cover these costs is essential to attracting and retaining qualified staff to make the healthcare system in American Samoa viable and effective,” LBJ said in its ARPA funding documents released by the ASG ARPA Oversight Office.

These activities will address major hurdles associated with recruiting staff, retaining staff, staff benefits, continuing education/training, housing, and salaries.”

According to the CEO, when he came on board the decision had already been made to build a new 40-bed hospital.

 “I did my own assessment on the reports and the conclusion I came up with was that the funding would be well spent if invested into renovating the current hospital.

“The LBJ hospital needs to be upgraded, in terms of infrastructure, facilities, medical equipment and more importantly physicians and nurses, where we are very much in need.

 “This may be a blessing in disguise for us to reconsider the current plans and allocate this funding to upgrade our only hospital” referring to the disputed lease.