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Some nurses return to work as Admin steps in to assist resolution

Lt. Governor Talauega E.V. Ale

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — As some of the striking nurses return to work, the Lemanu- Talauega Administration is stepping in to “make sure we address these concerns as soon as possible.” However, it is a “wait & see” for the returning nurses, with payday coming up this Friday — will the promised increment be reflected?

 Lt Governor Talauega E. V Ale and the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) met on Tuesday with LBJ hospital’s Board Chairman Dr. Malouamaua Tuiolosega, Board Member Afamasaga Dr. Talifa Talifa, Chief Executive Officer Moefaauo William Emmsley and Chief Finance Officer Fala S. Lesa.

 A press statement issued late Tuesday afternoon, confirmed that LBJ brought forth two major issues they are facing: the Nurses’ walkout and Licensing of newly recruited Nurses from Fiji, while Lt. Gov. Talauega and members of the CRC discussed each matter thoroughly with LBJ executives to help find solutions.

In the meantime, CEO Moefaauo confirmed meeting with the lead Nurses of the walkout and listening to their grievances.

Some nurses that walked have since returned to work to await whether their salaries this coming Friday will reflect their promised increment that was announced by the hospital management earlier this month.

The salary boost was to reflect on Dec 6, 2022, however that did not happen, resulting in the strike.

The hospital statement says the last comprehensive, organizational-wide, and concurrent pay adjustment as well as position re-classification occurred about eight years ago.

Moefaauo said that the LBJ nurse wages are now relatively "competitive" — 20% increase at the entry levels ranking even above some of the most industrialized and larger countries in the region but still below US, on average, by as much as 30%.

According to an earlier press statement Certified Nurses are now making $9.88 per hour an increase from $7.86 before; License Practical Nurses will be getting $13.22 per hour from $10.22 previously and for Registered Nurses they will be making $18.42 from $15.06. The salary boost is partially funded by the ARPA grant.

However, as a cautionary note, LBJ is facing a daunting task given its limited resources from its annual fiscal budget, sluggish incoming revenues, to inefficient operations, Moefaauo said at the time.

Talauega told the gathering, “On behalf of Governor Lemanu P. S Mauga, I offer our support where it is necessary, to make sure we address these concerns as soon as possible.

 “We need to think outside of the box, and change our approach on how we take care of our nurses.

“There is a ripple effect in this walkout and it is affecting the nurses and their families, the hospital, and the medical care of our people.

 “The bottom line is, we need to take care of our employees and our people,” he said.

CRC member and Department of Health Director Motusa T. Nua who is also the Chairman of the Health Services Regulatory Board (HSRB), pointed out that there is a disconnection between LBJ and DoH along with the HSRB.

He has offered to aid LBJ with DoH nurses, and the HSRB will await the packages of the 21 recruited RNs from LBJ-DHR for the board to review.

Regarding the nursing shortage and the certification of foreign nurses,  Board chair Dr. Malouamaua cited the hospital’s ratio of nurses to patients is currently estimated at about 1 nurse to 12 patients (1:12), this is a violation of regulations in regards to safe staffing ratios which is currently 1:4.

“There was a temporary relief to staffing during the COVID-19 community outbreak earlier this year, but after the FEMA and medical teams departed, LBJ continued to operate with a total of 45 RNs.

“To address the shortage, LBJ began to recruit nurses from island nations in the Pacific.

“They recruited 21 nurses from the island of Fiji, all who are licensed RNs and have field experience.

“The issue they face is that these nurses are working as nursing assistants (CNAs) until they take the exam to practice medicine in a US territory.”

According to Dr. Tuiolosega, they have to attend ASCC for six months prior to taking this exam.

A follow up meeting was called for Dec 28, 2022 (yesterday).

CRC members attending included Chairman Chief of Staff Loa T. Laupola, Attorney General Fainuulelei Falefatu Alailima-Utu, OFI Director Blanche Lulu Barber, Director Lynn Alaimalo, Deputy Director Levi Reese.

Others that were present were DoH Director Motusa T. Nua, Equal Employment Officer Eseta Iosefa, Special Programs Manager Silia Time, and Senior Executive Assistant to the Governor Aoelua Solomona.

So far there has been no news what other solutions have been found for the concerns brought forward by the nurses’ strike, including calling for the dismissal of the head nurse.