A US certified veterinarian who has conducted animal clinics in the territory, Dr. Kathleen Riley, has recommended that the Veterinary Clinic be moved from the Department of Agriculture and placed under the Department of Health.
Dr. Riley, who was brought here in January by the local group Alofa mo Meaola, said in a letter addressed to Governor Lolo Moliga that placing the clinic under DOH would be more appropriate as it only treats companion animals, not agricultural livestock.
Dr Riley tells the governor that as it stands now “the Veterinary Clinic is in crisis.”
She points out that Tutuila is experiencing an outbreak of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that is spread by cats, dogs and mice to humans and can be fatal if not treated in time.
Dr Riley wrote that while the clinic has several caring and skilled staff members, it does not have a consistent and timely source for medical supplies.
“Requests through the Procurement Office may take five to six months to be fulfilled, and it is extremely difficult to anticipate all needs, such as this leptospirosis outbreak and increased need for certain antibiotics, that far ahead of time,” she told the governor.
“There is no money in the Department of Agriculture budget for clinic supplies, even if they were to be requested in this manner. The clinic has been operating for years by purchasing supplies directly out of revenue from services and submitting receipts.”
Dr Riley points out that many suppliers will not ship to American Samoa, and others refuse to offer credit as previous debts have not been paid in full by the government.
The lack of a US certified vet that can order vaccines and supplies for the clinic was also raised by Dr Riley.
She refers to the recent decision by the Director of Agriculture to move current vet Keneth Lameta back to the Vet Clinic.
She provides a copy of a letter from former Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale in October of last year recommending that Dr. Lameta be terminated or immediately reassigned to a position that doesn’t involve the practice of veterinary medicine.
Dr Lameta was then reassigned to the Department of Agriculture to look after livestock.
At the same time he was under investigation for the disappearance of a large quantity of supplies which were ordered from outside the United States and were not approved by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
Dr Riley states that the results of this investigation have not been made public, “which they certainly should be if he has been exonerated and permitted to return to work.
“If Dr. Lameta has not been exonerated, he has no business handling prescription and controlled substances,” she insists.
Regarding her recommendation for the Vet Clinic to be moved to DOH, Dr Riley said, “There is clearly a demand for this service – the clinic sees thousands of dogs and cats each year. Their goals, such as reducing overpopulation, treating
parasites such as worms, fleas and ticks, and treating infectious diseases such as leptospirosis, are all closely related to human health.”