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Legislators cast doubts on hospital CEO’s leadership skills

Rep. Larry Sanitoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The leadership skills of Moefa’auo William Emmsley as CEO of the LBJ Hospital were criticized on Monday before the Senate and Wednesday in the House of Representatives. Calls for his stepping down as LBJ CEO seem to be growing louder.

In the House hearing yesterday, Tualauta Faipule Larry Sanitoa did not mince words when addressing the hospital Chief Executive Officer over his comments published in the hospital’s newsletter pertaining to the nurses that walked out and were part of a strike against the management.

Appearing before the House hearing for an update on the nurses grievances and other issues were — Chairman of the Board of the Hospital Authority, Dr Malouamaua Tuiolosega; Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Akapusi Ledua; Chief of Nursing, Simamao Tuatoo; and Chief Financial Officer, Fala Sualevai Lesa.

The Taulasea newsletter cited by Sanitoa outlined remarks by Moefa’auo, re the nurses’ strike in December 2022.

“The administration’s overarching goal is to preserve, protect, and perpetuate ‘premium’ healthcare services to all patients we serve,” he said.

And to those who digress from this, he noted  “… you are in the wrong profession, employed at the wrong place, and driven by wrong motives — after all [it] is LBJ’s mission statement to be a ‘patient-centered’ healthcare institution.”

“With an open mind and forethought, LBJ’s incoming administration proactively sought to address aging concerns that nurses have had for years, but never got remedied.

“Ironically, and despite LBJ’s good faith effort with preemptive measures, collaborative meetings with nurses, pay raises, recruitment plans for more nurses, review of working conditions, new workspace for nurses, the elevation of nurses in the hierarchical command structure, etc., a handful of ill-advised nurses, urging [sic] on by conspirators, engaged in an uncalled for and unethical walkout, which dangerously placed patient care and patient safety in a compromising position.

“As it were, sinister forces arrayed against duty, honor, and forbearance, giving birth only to disruptive, disharmony, and disorder within the establishment, and more regrettably, the debasement of principles,” said the CEO.

Sanitoa during the hearing said the comments reflect poorly on the hospital board and management and is “unbecoming of a leader.” 

“I have been in this chamber for 16 years; I have seen CEO’s come and go, even doctors, but I have never seen anything like this and that is the truth.

“A CEO is supposed to be a servant to the people and the people that you have working for you.

‘To be honest with you, CEO … I would like to recommend, they [the hospital board] should really reconsider your position.

“And I don’t have to point out that — [it] is the responsibility of the Chairman and the leaders of the Administration, because you cannot just utter such comments.

“Yet I heard we are still having problems with nurses, they are still leaving.

“You even have chaos there with your management team,” said Sanitoa.

Moefaauo apologized for his comments but cited his concerns were about anything happening to the elderly patients as a result of the nurses walking out, but Sanitoa would not have it, interjecting that that “even the Governor and Lt Governor stepped in and that is not good.”

As reported earlier in the Samoa News, in a hearing before the Senate on Monday Senator Togiola T.A. Tulafono queried the Hospital Board as to why the hospital CEO was “not fired” after the nurses walked out and participated in a strike against the hospital management in December 2022.

Togiola cited earlier comments made by Director of Health Motusa who said that if the nurses from DoH had walked out he would take full responsibility.

The Senator then asked Hospital Board chairman why the hospital’s CEO has not taken “full responsibility” after nurses walked out from the hospital.

Dr. Tuiolosega said the board had discussed the issue raised when the nurses walked out and it was reported in the newspaper.

 “This was already discussed with Moefa’auo when he appeared before the Hospital Board, where the members expressed disappointment over what had occurred. 

 “It was also uncovered [that] the CEO lacks maturity (mu’amu’a) and it’s certain that the CEO is unclear of his responsibilities,” said Dr. Tuiolosega and Togiola interjected, “Why hasn’t he been fired if he is not qualified for the job?

“Why not terminate his services if his educational background is not suitable for the position?” asked Togiola.

Dr. Tuiolosega then replied, that “only Moefaauo had the highest qualifications” and Togiola appeared upset and said “what the …” and then urged the Chairman to continue with his comments.

The chairman clarified the CEO’s qualification is unquestionable but the downfall is how he carries out his job as the CEO.

“His style of how he implements his duties as CEO,” Tuiolosega clarified.

Samoa News notes the CEO was overseas and not present at the Senate hearing. At the time, Samoa News made efforts to get comments from Moefaauo but were unsuccessful.

Prior to yesterday’s House hearing, Faipule Luaitaua Gene Pan had publicly called for Moefa’auo’s resignation, citing a number of grounds why he should be removed as CEO.