LBJ Medical Center: America’s worst hospital!

When I came to American Samoa, I had a medical emergency. That means a trip to LBJ Medical Center. It is not what you want but when you have a seizure disorder, it happens. I was looking forward to be on US soil to see an American doctor, at least.

I started to have problems while in Samoa. I know the hospitals is there is praised by the Samoans and demonized by everyone else. I went with the “everyone else” option and just waited for my flights on Inter Island Airways to Pago Pago.

The good news is that I was going to an American medical facility. The bad news is that LBJ Medical Center is considered one of the worst in the country.

In all fairness, it might be the worst in America and still be one of the best in Oceania outside of New Zealand.

My LBJ Medical Center experience

I went to the hospital and then ran blood test on me. They did not like my levels at all. My meds were simply not working and they did not have them on island. (A pretty common thing actually) The doctor was pretty concerned about this palagi (white guy from the mainland).

In the end, he wanted to admit me into the hospital for the night to watch me and see what exactly was happening. It was not a big deal to me but he really was concerned.

The hospital rooms was really plain. I say this because most hospital rooms in America have a television, internet and getting hold of staff is at the push of a button.

In American Samoa, it did not have any of that. It was wait until they come by the room to check on you to ask them whatever you needed. There are no internet in the rooms and there was no television.

The next morning, I was released from the glorified prison cell known as LBJ Medical Center.

The second trip to the hospital

A few days later, I was being chased by the crazy dogs on island and got hit by a bus. (not even joking) I got the “joy” of riding their ambulance and having basic surgery at the hospital. Thank God a visiting doctor of Colorado did it for me!

The ambulance was not that bad. It was an 15 passenger van that they had gutted out to make it usable for its new purpose. It worked. I have seen small rural hospitals in Missouri that have these as well. (While living on island, they did get a few brand new “real” ones though)

The operation was painful (dealing with nerves) and then I had to lay down for a week and then come back to have 23 staples removed.

I am happy to report that I can still walk after an operation at America’s worst hospital!

Is it really that bad?

In reality, it Is not. It is bad by American standards but pretty good by Pacific standards. I mean nothing in Papua New Guinea will compare to it.

A big part of the problem with LBJ is the way it is ran. The government wants to make it a community thing. They use the Medicaid money to try and make it dirt cheap for everyone instead of making the Americans on island that are actually in need qualify. It is a bad model that is highly political.

The answer to everything serious seems to be “go to Hawaii.” While that sounds good, it is not practical for a community that is a $700 flight each way from the next closest medical center.


8 replies
  1. Annie Maae
    Annie Maae says:

    Re: LBJ Hospital, Americas worst Hospital
    Dear Mr. Complainer,
    You know there is a
    thing called the suggestion box to voice your grievances. You do know you have a medical history that is taken seriously. Its not a joke. Lbj doctors, equivalent to your USA MD’s actually treated you. LBJ doctors are highly qualified/certified, just different credentials.
    This is the THANK YOU we get??? In your writings, many are degrading—no TVs, the ambulance ride…blah blah…Look! If you can do better do it, stop whining. Go and get us another hospital. While you are at it, go get a different airline, instead of Hawaiian Air. Oh! If that is not enough, install all TV’s in patients rooms (and you fork up the bill) and get NEW ambulances too.
    ………Just saying.

    • Leeann
      Leeann says:

      You are so full of it. I am Samoan and have grown up going to LBJ. When you don’t know any better, LBJ will work but certainly when you visit other mainland facilities and doctors, you quickly realize how archaeic LBJ is from staff credentials to equipment, facility’s cleanliness, and especially medication available compared to mainland standards.

      People should complain to bring attention to a problem that needs fixing and if you don’t like to read about it, go read something else. But people who speak out about a problem actually help elevate the problem to the attention of those who need to do the fixing, ASG. I doubt they would respond to a private citizen’s phone call about the problem so publicizing as much as possible is just what the doctor ordered, pun intended.

      • Leeann
        Leeann says:

        Thank you Peter for writing about an age old as problem! I support your efforts in bringing light to this life and death issue and for many of my relatives, it had been mostly the latter.

  2. Leauga T. Williams
    Leauga T. Williams says:

    Just want to know, if you know that LBJ is the worst hospital, why you didn’t wait and get a flight to the Mainland, and I’m just curious, how much was your medical bill, cause, even leaving here in the Mainland, we have medical insurance and still have to pay the premium for a surgery, so you didn’t mention that, yes all of us that are leaving here in the state,we hear story about the LBJ Hospital, but hey I was born and raised in Am.Samoa and been treated numerous of my life time at LBJ, and still alive. We might not have TV or a button to Bush for a nurse, but we have family member watching us and helped the nurses. You Know darn well the hospital in the Mainland doesn’t have a computer in the rooms for you to use, only for the nurses and the Doctors. Enough say. Take your complaint to the Legislature.

  3. Nicole M
    Nicole M says:

    I hear it all the time from friends and family members that live or have lived in American Samoa. They talk about how horrible LBJ is. One description was, it’s like the song Hotel California…you check in and never check out. I’m hoping it’s not at all true. A lot of people say they’d love to live there if the hospital wasn’t so bad.

  4. masoni
    masoni says:

    Obviously these two don’t get what you are saying. I was born and raised in American Samoa, then I moved to the states for 15 years and now Im back in American Samoa. Peter is right about our hospital could be doing a lot better if the funds were used correctly. I agree with him about it being the worst in America, but probably the best in the Pacific. I mean look at it you two that are offended by what Peter said, he’s actually telling the truth. We could have a much better facility and have better medic care IF our leaders from way back then up to the leaders we have today, did there job and ran it the right way. Come on man, I was born almost 40 years ago in this hospital and today it still looks the same exact way it did back then. You guys don’t see nothing wrong with that? The rest of our island is changing and developing for the better, and our hospital still looks the same from about 40 years ago? Do you two not see something wrong with that? He never said anything bad about the Doctors here, he was talking about how our hospital and ambulances looked like. It is also sad about what he said, but it is true that you go in to get checked and you are in serious condition, and the best thing they can tell you is “you need to fly to Hawaii for treatment” REALLY? You know I have been hearing that since I was a kid. My Grandfather and Grandmother we’re told that, and this was back in the 1980s. It is 2017 people and they are still saying the same thing. “You need to fly to Hawaii for treament” because there is nothing we can do for you here. REALLY PEOPLE? So I say YES this is probably the worst hospital in America, but it could be better if there was no corruption on this small little island we call our home. It is sad to hear this especially from someone with a different ethnic background, but it’s the TRUTH! The truth hurts but it will set you free.

    As for the TV’s and Push button, and all that little stuff, they had all that stuff in the hospital in the states since the 80s, and here yet we still don’t have it. That is sad, sad sad. This again all falls on the leaders and all the political BS games they are playing. I could go on but im tired of talking​ about this so good night.

    Disappointed citizen.

  5. Roman F!
    Roman F! says:

    Stop with all the talk Masoni, be disappointed who cares, you’re just a citizen that doesn’t appreciate. Hey what you see is what you get!!!

  6. Tonu Nuusila
    Tonu Nuusila says:

    What?? I can accept the fact that they don’t have tv or internet etc. But they don’t even have a call nurse button?? How insane is that!!

    What happens when they are having some urgent problems like difficulty breathing or having a heart attack??

    I really would like to know how they have been dealing with such emergencies when it arises?? It’s Incredible and beyond logic if there there has been no accidental death due to the nurses inability to get to the patient on time when an emergency situation.arrises..


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