Questions over doctor shortage in American Samoa
Law makers in American Samoa are to question the health department and the management of LBJ hospital over the sudden doctor shortage on the territory.
Lawmakers in American Samoa are to question the health department and the management of LBJ hospital over the sudden doctor shortage in the territory.
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 planned leave.
Our correspondent, Monica Miller, told Leilani Momoisea there are claims other doctors are leaving because their benefits have been reduced by the hospital.
MONICA MILLER: There are other doctors who are also taking their leave because of emergencies in their families and so 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.
LEILANI MOMOISEA: So they're asking LBJ to be used for emergency only.
MM: That's right and meanwhile the Tafuna Health Centre which is located in the Tualauta district, which is the most populated area of the territory, is open Monday to Friday, extended hours. Normally they open from 8 to 4pm but now they're going to be open all the way up to midnight Monday to Friday.
LM: And when are they expecting this issue to be resolved?
MM: They're saying by the end of this month but today when the fono went back in session, they are calling in the management of both the Health Department and the LBJ hospital to look at the doctors situation as well as what's being done with the dengue epidemic. One senator said that he's got it from good authority in the hospital that it's not just the internal medicine clinic that is having a shortage, that there are several other contract doctors who have opted to leave American Samoa, some even before their contracts are up. And one of the basic reasons is because their benefits that come with their contracts have been reduced by the hospital and lawmakers are going to hold hearings on this.
LM: So it might not just be an issue of people taking leave, there might be something deeper than that.
MM: That's right, according to the reports that we have received, and some parents have even written to their lawmakers pointing out that they've been told that particularly with the pediatric clinic that a lot of the 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.
LM: And in terms of the community health centres that are open, have you seen or heard feedback about how they're coping with the extra patients?
MM: Well the first day for the extended hours was on Friday, and the doctor I spoke to said that they didn't think that there had been ample publicity about the extended hours so while they had you know a few patients come in on Friday evening, it wasn't at the scale that they had expected. But because people are being made to wait a long time in the ER clinic here at LBJ hospital they expect that this week they're going to see more patients make use of the community health centres.
Monica Miller says the hearings on the doctor shortage are to begin this week.
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