Freedom Air is withholding the release of laboratory specimens of patients at the Tinian Health Center until it receives full payment on the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.'s longstanding arrears.
Corporation CEO Juan N. Babauta said he is concerned about the immediate impact of Freedom Air's decision to the well-being of Tinian patients. He explained that the center regularly ships out these specimens to Saipan for examination and analysis.
Babauta was told about the situation yesterday by Tinian Health Center acting director Tomasa Palacios.
A laboratory specimen is a biological specimen gathered from a patient’s tissue, fluids, or other material derived from the patient. It is used for laboratory analysis to assist diagnosis or staging of a disease process. Common examples include throat swabs, sputum, urine, blood, surgical drain fluids, tissue biopsies, and others.
Babauta admits that the corporation owes the local carrier a “significant amount” that dates back to the days of the then-Department of Public Health. The corporation took over not only management of health services but also DPH's debt to vendors, including Freedom Air.
“Freedom Air refused to release the lab specimen from Tinian [to Saipan] because the payment upfront is not available,” said Babauta yesterday. He described the situation as “very problematic” because the health of patients on Tinian is at risk.
As of 6pm yesterday, Babauta was still trying to communicate with Freedom Air to work out the problem with the company.
Saipan Tribune tried to seek comments from Freedom Air general manager Dennis Cruz, to no avail. Calls were not returned as of press time.
According to Babauta, the corporation's debt to the company includes payment for flying doctors to and from Tinian and Saipan as well as the regular shipping of laboratory specimens between the islands.
Babauta said he will work out a payment plan for Freedom Air to satisfy, little by little, the unpaid obligation. He cannot immediately cite figures or terms of the proposed payment plan.
It was in July 2012 when Freedom Air approached the Commonwealth Development Authority and asked for a loan of $600,000 to keep the company afloat for the next six months. CDA disapproved the loan.
Officials of Freedom Air disclosed during a July meeting of the CDA board that without the emergency cash infusion, the company may shut down.