Dismissed head of LBJ Radiology posts petition calling for probe
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Vaanatiu Toafala Iafeta started a petition online at change.org — Life Matters !!! Bring Justice For the Cover-Up of Five Preventable Deaths at LBJ Hospit[al] — on November 11, 2023. The petition focuses on the alleged five deaths he believes led to his wrongful dismissal from his position as head of the Radiology Department at LBJ Medical Center in August of this year.
According to Mr. Iafeta, the issue was brought to light by an Interventional Radiologist, Dr. Walker, who pointed to unread CT images he assessed since October 2022, at a meeting held in January 2023 with the LBJ Board members, then LBJ CEO Moefa’auo William T. Emmesley, Jr., then Acting CMO Dr. Akapusi Ledua, Management and LDS volunteer doctors.
It was during this board meeting that concerns were revealed about the Radiology Department and a resolution was passed to investigate him for “the five preventable deaths as alleged by Dr. Harold Walker.”
Samoa News published Mr. Iafeta’s latest letter, dated Nov. 1, 2023, in its Nov. 5th electronic only issue and its Nov. 6th printed issue, which explains his concerns on the issue, including his alleged wrongful dismissal.
In his latest effort — the petition — to bring the issue to the fore in the community, Mr. Iafeta was asked by Samoa News about his intent. He responded via email yesterday as follows:
What is my intent?
— I want the Governor, American Samoa Regulatory Board and ASG to do a long overdue investigation into 5 preventable deaths as reported by Dr. Walker to the Board, CEO Dr. Ledua and Management at their meeting in January 2023.
— These are serious allegations and I want the truth. Dr. Walker must provide proof of these serious allegations.
He said he had four main points to address:
For my dismissal you can ask them why they dismissed me? Look I am not a physician or a Radiologist, I am a Radiologic Technologist. I don't read images and don't [know] why they blamed me for these serious allegations.
— Conduct a thorough investigation of 5 preventable deaths that were openly stated by Dr. Walker.
— Request to dismantle the Board and ask Dr. Ledua to step down immediately for these reasons. (1) The Board made a resolution in front of hospital staff and LDS physicians and tasked Ledua to conduct an investigation. The Board and Dr. Ledua neglected to do anything about these serious allegations of 5 preventable deaths.
— Provide a review of practice and procedures to address failings identified in the investigation report and produce an action plan so this will NEVER happen to any loved one.
— Make sure the Board ensures policies are in place for clinical risk management and complaint management.
Mr. Iafeta further points out that he “had sent them (LBJ) 2 letters and no response.”
His petition can be found on change.org. and he says it needs at least 100 signatures, with 50 already in place. It is as follows:
LIFE MATTERS!!! DID YOU HAVE A LOVED ONE DIE AT LBJ IN 2022? – BRING JUSTICE FOR THE COVER-UP OF 5 PREVENTABLE DEATHS at LBJ AMERICAN SAMOA.
LIFE MATTERS! You cannot put a price tag on a life, but some of the Board members were more interested in the lost revenue for the hospital from not reading CT images. The hospital has an obligation to those that died, and their family members so this will never happen again.
In a January 2023 meeting at LBJ Tropical Medical Center in American Samoa, an Interventional Radiologist reported there were 5-preventable deaths due to unread CT images he assessed since October 2022. On the spot, a resolution by the Board was passed to investigate this matter. The meeting was attended by the LBJ Board of Directors, CEO, LDS volunteer physicians, and management. It has been almost 11-months and nothing has been done.
An incident report letter requesting an investigation into the 5 preventable deaths cover-up was given to the CEO on November 1, 2023. The Board Chairman sent a response on November 6, 2023 they will do an investigation, but then flew off-island that same night with the CEO, CFO, Jean Anderson and a new Chief of Business Affairs and Audit; who is doing the 5-preventable deaths investigation? Is the life of 1 person not important, let alone 5 people? The Department of Interior has representatives from Washington DC on island, and scheduled to visit LBJ who receives millions in Federal funding for hospital operations. It’s a shame DOI will not be met with decision-makers of the hospital when they visit.
This petition is important so it will bring positive change for the healthcare system of American Samoa and hold the LBJ Board, CEO and management accountable for neglect and the cover-up of those 5 preventable deaths. I want to encourage safe and quality practices for our people. Those who hurt our people should be made responsible and relieved of their duties. There is a need for incidents reports or complaints to be properly reported and investigated with corrective actions. The Board and CEO do not care!
This petition calls ASG, the American Samoa Health Regulatory Board, and LBJTMC to: 1. Conduct a thorough investigation at LBJ for the 5 preventable deaths as reported by Dr. Harold Walker by an external 3rd party, and for the Fono Health Committee to also investigate this issue.
2. Request the Governor to dismantle this Board immediately, and replace it with compassionate and professional members of the community who understand the role, duties, and responsibilities of being a member of the hospital Board.
3. Provide a review of practice and procedures to address the failings identified in the investigation report, and produce an action plan to achieve improvement for patient safety and quality care.
4. Make sure the Board ensures policies are in place to engage in proper clinical risk management, and complaint management for preventable deaths instead of interfering in hospital operations.
Samoa News reached out to LBJ Medical Center for comment about the petition and is still awaiting response.