The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is requesting a yearly funding support of $10 million from the government starting next fiscal year until it becomes self-sufficient but the Legislature appears noncommittal due to the government's scarce resources and lack of revenue stream.
According to House Ways and Means chair Rep. Ramon Basa (Cov-Saipan), he sees the corporation's need for more funds but the Legislature can only do so much.
“It's no question, they need funding.but because we all know that collection is not improving, we can only give so much. Now that the House is deliberating on the new budget, we're still looking at solutions to help our hospital,” Basa told Saipan Tribune.
Basa met with corporation chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta on Wednesday for a tour of the Commonwealth Health Center.
This lack of budget to pay the corporation's obligations to both personnel and vendors is the root of the ongoing crisis at CHC. The former Department of Public Health used to have a budget allocation of $36 million a year. In comparison, the corporation was only appropriated $5 million as seed capital since it took over the department's functions this fiscal year.
According to Basa, the only way the Legislature can provide the corporation's much-needed funding is with the passage of legislation, for example, that will bring new revenue to the government such as raising taxes.
“It's really difficult to commit an amount because resources have not gone up. But if the initiative that will raise BGRT by about 1 percent or 1.5 percent passes, it may happen. I am going to begin the communication with the business sector because I know that that's the only sector in the economy that can bring this help,” he added.
Basa admitted that Wednesday was his first time to visit the hospital's maintenance and engineering sections. The lawmaker described the tour as an eye-opener after seeing the dilapidated condition of several equipment.
Babauta showed Basa CHC's old boiler, the reverse osmosis system, the water system, the medical oxygen air, generators, automatic transfer switches, among others.
Babauta, for his part, told Saipan Tribune that he's glad that the lawmaker took the time to visit the facility and see its situation first-hand.
“I think he came away with much better appreciation of what it takes to run the hospital other than the actual patient care. I would like to extend the invitation to the Legislature to come down so they can have a better understanding of the hospital's situation,” added Babauta.