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Machine to test COVID-19 is on-island, but there are two glitches

LBJ hospital sign
American Samoa has no test-kits, and specialized building still not completed

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The machine, purchased for LBJ Medical Center with support from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, to conduct local testing of the coronavirus arrived last Friday on the cargo flight, while the building to house the machine will be completed soon.

ASG’s COVID-19 Task Force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said last week that the governor has endorsed efforts by LBJ’s chief executive officer, Faumuina John Faumuina and LBJ to purchase testing equipment, that would allow for test results to be done on island — eliminating the need to send them off-island.

However, there are two current set-backs that LBJ is working on to resolve. The first is the completion of the special building to house the machine; and the second, is that American Samoa has no test-kits.

Responding to inquiries, Iulogologo — who is also the LBJ board chairman — confirmed to Samoa News yesterday morning that the machine has arrived on island and the “Negative Pressure” building, “which will house the machine is almost completed.” He also noted that LBJ is awaiting the arrival of certain parts needed for this specialized unit.

At last Friday’s COVID-19 Task Force meeting called by the governor, Faumuina further revealed that American Samoa has no test-kits, and samples are sent to Hawai’i for testing.

He explained that LBJ is working with a company in California, which is getting about 1.8 million test-kits ordered from South Korea, and LBJ has requested the company to include American Samoa in their order and share some of their test kits.

“Hopefully, we will be successful,” he said but didn’t identify the name of the California company.

LBJ currently has 12 ventilators and Faumuina said they have already worked with an off island company to get an additional 20 ventilators. He said 10 are now on the way to arrive here on Apr. 10th  (via cargo flight), while awaiting the other 10 to come at a later time based on the distribution by the company — which he also didn’t identify.

The LBJ Board chair also gave an update status of the LBJ “negative pressure medical tent” which is used in the event the isolated COVID-19 unit inside the hospital is full. He said this medical tent — to be called the COVID-19 ward — is scheduled to arrive Apr. 17th (via cargo flight) and this was confirmed by the supplier.

He explained that medical staffing of this unit is already in place and those who work in this ward will not work at any other hospital wards. He said LBJ has 4 decontamination units and all staff including the medical team, will use these decontamination units after their shifts at the COVID-19 ward before heading home.

He said one of the big concerns for the hospital is medical staff being infected with the virus causing a shortage of medical staff. And LBJ management and staff have already set policies to ensure their safety — to be implemented in preparation for when American Samoa gets a confirmed coronavirus case.

Another issue shared by Faumuina deals with ambulances at the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) saying that LBJ has secured an ambulance and once the payment is sent and received by the supplier it will be shipped here.

LBJ has been working with ASG Commerce Department for funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for purchase of this ambulance but it is taking time to secure the money.

Therefore LBJ will utilize its financial resources to purchase the ambulance and hope the CDBG grant will reimburse the hospital later, he said, and also shared that LBJ has policies in place for the morgue and a company has agreed to provide  “two container freezers” for use as part of the morgue in case the main one is full.