The release of additional funds for the Commonwealth Health Center is facing a new delay following the resignation of Attorney General Edward Buckingham this week, according to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. board chair Joaquin Torres.
This after he revealed that Buckingham is the person tasked by the Fitial administration to take the lead on the $7-million additional line of credit from the Marianas Public Land Trust, which has yet been issued to the cash-strapped corporation until this time.
The $7 million credit line is part of the $11.58 million originally contemplated for the public hospital to help augment the critical shortfall in its operation: payroll, supplies, dilapidated equipment, and others. It was in March this year when $4.58 million was initially made available for the hospital to avert the shutting down of some sections and services at the facility.
Torres disclosed yesterday that since the enactment of the law that appropriated the $7 million to CHC, not a single cent has been made available to the corporation due to “conditions and requirements” that according to the administration and the AG, must first be satisfied.
Among these is the completion of the hospital assessment, which Torres said should not have been used as a basis for funds release. “They're withholding the money [from MPLT] because they are waiting for the completion of this assessment. But it has nothing to do with this [loan],” he told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
As soon as he heard about Buckingham's resignation, the chairman disclosed that he immediately requested the corporation's chief financial officer Alvaro Santos to communicate with the AG on the status of the MPLT loan. Healthcare Corp. CEO Juan N. Babauta is currently off-island for official business.
Torres said the corporation, which badly needs funding assistance to meet its payroll and immediate supplies, can no longer wait for more delays as a result of uncalled requirements.
“It has been appropriated and signed into law to help the hospital. and the MPLT is ready to release the funds! They should not use the assessment and other 'requirements' as bases if they and when they will provide the money to CHC,” he said.
Like the first $4.58 million line of credit released to CHC, Torres said the corporation will ink a memorandum of agreement with MPLT for the release of the $7 million. This MOA, he said, will just be between the two agencies.