14 Jul 2015

Doctor shortage in American Samoa taking toll on hospital

3:15 pm on 14 July 2015

A sudden doctors shortage at American Samoa's LBJ Hospital has prompted officials to urge people to make use of community health centres, rather than the hospital's medical clinic.

LBJ hospital, American Samoa

LBJ hospital, American Samoa Photo: RNZI

There are just two doctors on duty in the LBJ medical ward and clinic after one doctor collapsed on the job, and another is away on leave.

Officials expect the shortage to be resolved by the end of the month.

Our correspondent Monica Miller says the Tafuna community health centre has extended its hours and will open from 8am until midnight from Monday to Friday.

"They're now asking that people make use of the community health centres, instead of coming to the medical clinic at the LBJ hospital, where most of the adults and people who don't have any emergency illnesses would normally go to."

Monica Miller says lawmakers are to question the health department and the management of the LBJ hospital over the shortage.

She says one senator claims several doctors have opted to leave American Samoa before their contracts are up.

She says the claim is that doctors are leaving because their benefits have been reduced by the hospital.

"According to the reports that we've received and some parents have even written to their lawmakers pointing out that they've been told that particularly with the paediatric clinic, that a lot of doctors who are on contract are leaving, and the hospital hasn't done a good job of recruiting doctors to replace them, so that we're going to have a severe shortage."

Monica Miller says the hearings on this issue will begin later this week.