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Senators stake out differing directions at hospital hearing

Dr. Akapusi Ledua (left) and  Dr Joseph Shumway

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A spirited discussion ensued yesterday morning during a Senate Health/ Hospital Committee hearing, with chairman Sen. Tuiasina Dr. Salamo Laumoli saying that the hearing was called to know more about LBJ Medical Center’s plans for a new hospital, while other senators argued that the Senate first needs to find out the root and cause of problems facing the medical center.

As previously reported by Samoa News, Gov. Lemanu P. S. Mauga has already publicly announced that the new hospital, to be built in Tafuna, is now overseen by the Health Department — no longer by LBJ.

LBJ’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Joseph Shumway and Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Akapusi Ledua, appeared yesterday for the Senate committee hearing and they listened to the ongoing discussion among Senators.

Also scheduled to have appeared at the hearing was LBJ board chairman, Dr. Malouamaua Tuiolosega, who has traveled off island to attend a meeting of the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA) in Honolulu.

At the start of the hearing, Tuiasina explained the purpose, which is to hear from LBJ on plans for the new hospital.

However, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i said this is a continuation of the previous hearing with LBJ officials, which was not completed, to discuss problems and issues of concerns occurring at LBJ and how best to address then.

Magalei argued that this is not the time yet to discuss a new hospital, when there are pressing issues that must be addressed first at LBJ, and these matters were results from the hospital board’s decisions.

Sen. Malaepule Saite Moliga, agreed with Magalei, saying that the focus now is on the pressing problems at hospital that need to be addressed and the board chairman should be present as well as the chief of nursing to get more testimony and explanation of what’s happening at the hospital.

He also agreed with Magalei that this is not time to discuss plans for a new hospital.

However, Tuiasina insisted that it’s time to move forward with the LBJ witnesses presenting to the Senate plans for the new hospital. He said there’s “no intention of discussing the past” — but moving forward.

Other senators chimed in, and argued that the committee must find out more on what caused the problems and issues at the hospital.

Senate President, Tuaolo Manaia Fruean said that it’s important that the board chairman is present to find out more on the current issues faced with LBJ and to find solutions, and not yet time to talk about the new hospital.

In the end, Tuiasina announced that the hearing would not proceed forward until Dr. Tuiolosega returns to the territory on Apr. 10.

Before the hearing’s conclusion, Dr. Ledua offered apologies from Dr. Tuiolosega, who was scheduled to appear at the hearing. But with no seats available on last night’s Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu, Dr. Tuiolosega traveled yesterday morning via Apia to catch the Fiji Airways’ flight to Honolulu.

Dr. Tuiolosega “sends his apologies for the unfortunate circumstances,” said Dr. Ledua.