Senate calls on Gov to divert ARPA funds to upgrade LBJ, instead of new hospital
A Senate Resolution calling on Governor Lemanu P.S Mauga to follow the recommendations by the local medical experts and allocate the total $300 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) capital investment into the healthcare facilities to LBJ Tropical Medical Center and support their efforts was introduced today.
Also, the government is to follow the recommendations of the US Army Corps of Engineers to renovate and modernize the current facility at LBJ instead of building a new hospital.
The Senate resolution introduced today was assigned to Senator Tuiasina Dr Salamo Laumoli, Chairman of the Hospital Committee.
The resolution says that in 2021 American Samoa received over $479 million for various COVID-related healthcare response projects. This funding responds directly to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits or help impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality.
Out of that 95% of ARPA funding, $300 million was assigned to Capital Investment into Healthcare Facilities.
According to the resolution, American Samoa has only one acute medical facility, LBJ Tropical Medical Center, 124 medical beds and 10 ICU beds to serve our seven islands and approximately 52,000 residents. In 2019, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued a report to Congress addressing the condition of the LBJ Tropical Medical Center.
They cited several issues, including the need to repair the infrastructure of the current facility. Governor Lemanu opted to go with the 3rd option recommended by the USACE and build a brand new standalone, multi-story hospital in the Lion’s Park area however, instead of the $700M price tag, it will be with $300M of the capital improvements monies of the ARPA funding.
Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean said this matter is critical and ARPA funds should be used by 2026, so afterwards, the government will have to fork up the budget for the new hospital.
The resolution says that a Medical Subcommittee was formed with local doctors, nurses, and medical officers of both DOH and LBJ to review the Army Corps report and make a recommendation.
They opt to return the $200M to LBJ to upgrade and renovate the LBJ.
The Senators strongly recommend to Governor Lemanu and ASG to follow the recommendations of the Medical Subcommittee and return the $200M to LBJ so they may make the necessary improvements as the Army Corps recommends.
The Senate further noted that Governor Lemanu and ASG follow the advice of our local medical professionals, doctors and nurses who run our healthcare industry daily.
They urge the Government not to “squander the financial blessings” received through the ARPA program on an unsustainable, unrealistic, unviable “Mini-LBJ.”
It is incumbent on all leaders to be great stewards of the federal funding we have been blessed with.
Senators believe there is no need for a new hospital but rather upgrade and take care of our current hospital, the Senate Resolution reads.