The visiting team from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is extending its stay on Saipan after failing to complete its survey inspection of the Commonwealth Health Center last Friday.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. board chair Joaquin Torres said yesterday that the federal representatives' extended stay on the island may take a few more days which will be capped by an exit interview with corporation officials.
CMMS representatives have been on the island since Monday last week. The team issued an immediate jeopardy status on the hospital after discovering non-functioning defibrillators in key units of the hospital.
CHC was given 23 days to submit a comprehensive action plan or its certification will be terminated and that would mean the cancellation of all federal monies received from Medicare.
Torres disclosed that as a procedure, CHC has to provide response on the immediate jeopardy status within 24 hours after issuance. The chairman said hospital administrator Karen Buettner was able to provide the preliminary report to the visiting team, while completing the comprehensive action plan due within 23 days. As days go by, the chairman said “amended/supplemental” reports have been also provided by the corporation to CMMS.
Since Friday, two defibrillators were found working at the CHC's key units after repair work was completed. The hospital has a number of non-functioning defibrillators many of which are not repairable.
Torres disclosed yesterday that the corporation has made the decision to procure new defibrillators and back-up batteries soon in consideration of the critical need of the units.
The chairman revealed that it is only after the complete assessment of CMMS that the corporation will be provided with all the “general assessment” and “deficiencies” that the CMMS may have for the public hospital.
He clarified that the lifting of immediate jeopardy for specific concern on defibrillators may also take some time because CMMS has to “accept” the comprehensive action plan from CHC.
Last Wednesday, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial extended the emergency declaration for CHC due to its financial challenges impacting the hospital's services. During emergency declaration, all laws and procurement regulations are suspended and agency is under the direct watch of the executive branch.
Torres said yesterday the new E.O. will be a big help in finding additional monies for hospital needs such as that of the medical equipment and supplies. However, he admitted that without the “flow of new funds” for CHC, the new emergency declaration will not bear any major change in the hospital's situation.
Torres also disclosed that the corporation drafted last Friday an emergency procurement for a Tinian doctor and documents would soon be finalized this week to address the long-time concern on the island.
The lack of a permanent physician on Tinian was among the issues raised by corporation board member Anthony Aguon, who earlier accused corporation CEO Juan N. Babauta of making irresponsible decisions, particularly on the issue of a doctor for Tinian.
Last Friday, Torres and the CEO met with its legal counsel from Attorney General's Office and discussed how the issue can be rectified.
Torres said it was agreed upon that an emergency RFP will soon be issued out to hire a doctor for Tinian from off-island. At present, he said THC is being served by a locum doctor and being assisted by a physician assistant from Saipan in certain days of the week.