While I am on the subject of news, another article in today's edition of Samoa News caught my eye, and brought to mind a situation that others also have found troubling. At Monday's Senate hearing on the status of the Government Retirement Program there was discussion on why retirement payments have been escalating.
Here is a quote: "Responding to questions from senators as to why the increase in payouts, Talia (Iaulaualo) explained that there are more retirees, including a lot of people taking medical retirement and qualifying for disability." "Sen. Uti Petelo questioned if there is a physician used by the Fund to sign off on the paperwork qualifying a person for medical retirement and Talia responded that the Fund utilizes the service of LBJ hospital's Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga, who conducts the medical evaluation and signs off on the paper work".
This brought to mind the problem I encountered with the medical off-island referral process when I was Director of Medical Services back in 1987. Necessity for off-island medical referral was supposed to be determined by the off-island referral committee, of which Dr. Saleapaga was chairman. I soon discovered that approvals for off-island referral of patients were being approved by the chairman alone in many instances without the approval of the other committee members. I put a stop to this as soon as it was revealed to me.
In a small island Territory like American Samoa, where family, and political connections play such a strong role in the decision-making of individuals in power, it is important that processes be enforced to ensure that medical related decisions are made in an unbiased manner based on medical merits only. Having only one individual making determinations of medical retirement qualifications, like one individual making off-island medical referral approvals, subjects the process to family and political influences that should not be part of the approval/disapproval process.
For this reason, and because of personal experience, I would highly recommend that medical retirement decisions be made by a committee of qualified persons, rather than a single individual.
Just keeping up with the news. Mick