12 Oct 2005

American Samoan hospital charges to at least double

2:07 pm on 12 October 2005

There are plans to double the charges for outpatient visits to American Samoa's LBJ hospital while inpatient fees will increase even more.

The chairman of the hospital board, Charles Warren, says from November, residents will go from paying outpatient fees of five U.S. dollars to ten dollars, and that will double again in April to 20 U.S. dollars.

Mr Warren says residents who are patients in hospital will go from paying 20 dollars per day to 50 dollars in November, and then in April, the fee will be 100 dollars, a five fold increase from current charges.

The chairman says there will be a sliding fee scale introduced for those who can't afford to pay and emergency cases will be accepted.

But, Mr Warren says outpatient visits must be paid for.

"Right now, a person can't show up at the hospital, let's say for an outpatient visit and refuse to pay. They won't be seen and that policy's not going to change. However, an emergency case; if somebody presents to the emergency room, they're going to be seen regardless. You take care of them first, you worry about getting paid later."

Mr Warren says the hospital has no choice but to increase the fees because it has been spending more than its income for several years and is now having to be fiscally responsible.

Non-resident charges will be even higher than the increases planned for residents.