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Hospital board dismisses allegations of numerous forced resignations

Lbj hospital sign
They blame the brouhaha on a “disgruntled former employee”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In response to the former manager of the LBJ Hospital Radiology Division, Vaanatiu Iafeta Tofala, asking Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga to help more than 30 hospital employees whose services have been terminated or forced to resign recently, as well as calling for the removal of the LBJ board ‘for cause’, the American Samoa Medical Center says Vaanatiu is a “disgruntled former employee with only a limited understanding” of their “Human Resource Regulations and the specific circumstances that led to the disciplinary actions at issue.”

The letter to the governor was reported by KHJ News last Friday, Mar. 15, 2024. Samoa News does not have a copy of the letter; however, the ASMC responded to the KHJ report in an email to Samoa News over the weekend.

According to the KHJ report, Vaanatiu states in his letter that “never in the history of this great territory has these many people been terminated or suspended from work at one time,” he said. “I have to speak up for these innocent hard working, dedicated securities, housekeeping and other employees that were forced to resign or will face termination.”

Vaanatiu cites the terminations and forced resignations as not being done with ’out due process’ and there were no supporting documents that violated federal, ASG and ASMC policies.

The KHJ report further states that Vaanatiu said that “some of the security and housekeeping employees were fired because they don’t speak English.” 

He asks the Governor, “Was it not under your leadership that both Samoan and English have been made the official languages,” under public law.

LBJ in their response says that “only four employees have appealed their disciplinary actions. 

“Those appeals were just received by the Hospital and will be addressed privately. 

“Those employees will be provided the due process they are entitled to.”

Further, the hospital management notes that “to be clear, the recommendation for disciplinary action comes not from the Board of Directors or Management but from the immediate supervisors of the employees at issue. 

“The Board of Directors has no role in the disciplinary process until an appeal is filed with the Board.”

Addressing the employees that “were subject to discipline for an inability to speak English”, ASMC identifies them as security guards.

It states that “security guards hold public facing positions, as noted by Mr. Toafala, American Samoa is a multilingual society, if an emergency happens, we need our security guards to be able to communicate with our patients and the public in English and Samoan.”

Speaking of the employees that have been disciplined or terminated, ASMC said that “all of the individuals that have been disciplined have been counseled on numerous occasions, some over a period of years without improvement. 

“As we have stated before to the Fono and in the press, the Hospital is not a setting where we can tolerate poor performance, the expectation is not one of perfection but professionalism.”

Vaanatiu in his letter, according to KHJ, asks the governor to reinstate the employees so that they can provide for their families.

He also calls for the board to be removed ‘for cause’ by the governor, reciting claims of wrongdoing.

“Governor please do it for the sake of all employees and especially the securities and housekeeping that can’t afford a lawyer,” Vaanatiu is reported writing in his letter.

LBJ in their response said, “we expect all employees of the Hospital to take pride in their work and the responsibility they have for the care of the people of American Samoa. 

“When that standard is not met hard choices must be made and we will not shrink from that responsibility. 

“Our highest obligation is to ensure that the patients of the Hospital receive the care they deserve and we will make the hard decisions that must be made in order to ensure that our patients and families receive the highest standard of care that can be provided.”

LBJ cites performance issues with terminated employees, which include some of them failing “to perform duties as assigned; unexcused tardiness; unexcused absences, failing to show-up for shifts; insubordination; and loafing on the job.”

It also notes that, “the employees of the Hospital are our greatest asset. 

“The management of the Hospital has no desire to arbitrarily terminate an individual’s employment.”