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Statement from Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga - Construction of New Hospital in American Samoa - 9/1/23

It seems like a week does not go by that my heart does not ache because I hear that a member of our community, our family, our friends have passed because we do not have specialized facilities to meet their healthcare needs. Our territory's health has always been a priority, and I firmly believe that we must take bold steps to ensure that every resident receives the care they deserve. With the facts at hand and the once-in-a-lifetime support of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, together with Lieutenant Governor Talauega E. V. Ale, I am resolute in my decision to build a new hospital in our territory that can provide these much needed services. Too many of our people are lost to heart attacks because of a lack of specialized screenings. Too many of our people are not diagnosed with cancer until it has progressed to Stage 4 because we lack an oncology clinic. Only those who can afford to travel off island can get necessary orthopedic care while those who cannot must suffer because of the lack of facilities. In each of these cases, for those who cannot make it off island on their own, their only option is to seek help at LBJ until they are either medically referred and transported off island or they succumb to the disease.

This needs to end. Our people deserve better.

They deserve to receive quality care here at home where their family can support them through what is often the most difficult times of their lives. Too often our elders, worried about their health and missing loved ones, are crammed into hotel rooms or hospital rooms thousands of miles away from their family. Why should these loved ones – those who have spent their lives supporting their families and this community – suffer these indignities when we have the opportunity to now provide these services here at home? The answer is simple. They should not.

There is no doubt that the challenges we face in the healthcare sector are significant, but so are the resources we've secured. With a substantial allocation of $344 million, representing over 71% of the total ARPA funds, we have a unique opportunity to reshape our healthcare landscape for the better. Our vision is centered around improving accessibility, expanding services, and providing state-of-the-art medical care for all. The impact of COVID continues long after the threat of pandemic. It highlighted the limitations of our healthcare system. The ability to use our ARPA funds to address these challenges by both improving our lone acute hospital and adding the new specialized hospital allows us to address the needs of our disproportionately impacted community in ways we could not otherwise.

LBJ Medical Center, a cornerstone of our healthcare system, is set to use $100 million for crucial enhancements, including the expansion of the emergency room and ICU facilities, plant improvements at both LBJ and DOH centers, and the recruitment of skilled healthcare professionals. These investments will empower LBJ to better serve the diverse medical needs of our residents.

In recognition of the importance of diversifying and increasing our healthcare offerings, we are allocating $200 million for a new specialized services hospital, overseen by the Steering and Construction Management Committee. This initiative is not merely about constructing a building; it's about delivering advanced medical treatments and services that are currently lacking in our region.

The deliberations leading up to this decision were thorough and inclusive. Working closely with the Steering and Construction Management Committee and the Medical Subcommittee, I am confident that this new hospital is the right step forward. Our objective is clear: to reduce the need for off-island referrals and bring more quality medical services within our borders. This means fewer families will have to face the difficult choice of leaving our territory for medical treatment and more accessibility for those who do not have the means to seek medical assistance elsewhere.

I want to assure you that every dollar allocated will be used judiciously and transparently. The Army Corps of Engineers' report, though issued in 2019, has guided our considerations, and we acknowledge the potential adjustments needed to account for current market conditions.

In conclusion, building this new hospital isn't just about infrastructure; it's about investing in the health and well-being of our people. This endeavor aligns with the vision set forth in the American Samoa ARPA Recovery Plan, and it's a testament to our commitment to a healthier, stronger future. Together, we will create a medical landscape that stands as a beacon of care, compassion, and progress not just for American Samoa, but for the Pacific region.

S001-09012023 Statement from Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga
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