Troubled American Samoa hospital resumes off island referrals
American Samoa's only hospital has some funding to resume payments for people forced to travel overseas for medical care.
American Samoa's only hospital, the LBJ, is to resume sending people off island for medical care after a six year gap because of a lack of money.
The paid for referrals had ended in 2008 because the hospital did not have the money.
It has finally got access to income from a tax increase set up two years ago, partly for this purpose, as correspondent Monica Miller explained to Don Wiseman.
MONICA MILLER: Basically the legislature had approved almost two years ago, funding earmarked for the off-island referral programme. And this is the 2 percent increase in the wage pack for all wage earners in American Samoa. And initially the wage tax was earmarked to pay off a 3 million dollar loan from the Workmen's Compensation Fund for the LBJ. And after that loan was paid the law specified that 50 percent of the proceeds from the 2 percent wage tax increase would then go to the off-island referral programme and 50 percent goes to basic operations. So it was revealed by the acting CEO and also chairman of the LBJ hospital authority board that they have resumed sending patients off-island however the funding or subsidies for patients is only to cover air-fares. Before when the programme was running very smoothly the LBJ hospital was covering all of the transportation costs as well as the treatment costs at the hospitals basically in Honolulu.
DON WISEMAN: So it's not actually doing that much.
MM: No not really but with the funding that's available I think that they're starting off slow but it's not much especially when you consider the hospital fees in Hawaii for example.
DW: How many people in American Samoa, where I know you've got a segment of the population that's fairly unhealthy, so it's going to affect quite a few people isn't it.
MM: Well there are criteria and one of them is that you have to be a US national or citizen of the United States.
DW: I remember this tax coming in a couple of years ago, it's surprising isn't it that it's taken this long for the benefits of it to start flowing through.
MM: That's one of the things that the lawmakers have been questioning. There were problems with the ASG treasury transmitting the funds over to the LBJ hospital but the legislature has been really persistent in demanding that the administration follow the law and that this money as soon as that loan was paid off and this happened about two years ago, that the proceeds should go into a special account and on the 5th of each month that the money should be transmitted to the LBJ hospital.
DW: But there may have been a period there where the money was not going where it was intended.
MM: Yes that's something that's come out during hearings that the legislature has held and when the new treasurer of the American Samoa government appeared for confirmation hearings he was told specifically that the Fono expected this law to be followed and that the money should go to the LBJ hospital. Of course the government is also saying that the LBJ hospital owes about a million dollars for insurance coverage that the government had covered for the LBJ but one of the senators has repeatedly pointed out that there's no provision under the law that established the 2 percent increase in the wage tax providing for that.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: