Gov. Benigno R. Fitial told lawmakers that bringing in a management team that would “turn around” the beleaguered Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. could cost the CNMI up to $2 million for at least six months. There's no telling where the government would get such an amount considering that $114 million in projected resources have already been obligated under the fiscal year 2013 budget law.
The recommendation, made by HealthTech Management Services that surveyed the status of the Commonwealth Health Center, says the management team should be retained for a minimum of 180 days.
House floor leader George Camacho (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan) separately said yesterday that the source of funding to hire a CHC turnaround management team is unclear and the governor has not asked the Legislature for any specific appropriation measure to address this matter.
Camacho and Villagomez said the Fitial administration plans to issue a request for proposal to get the best team possible.
Villagomez said he strongly supports the release of an RFP, instead of awarding a sole-source contract.
“I hope the process is as transparent as possible,” Villagomez told Saipan Tribune.
U.S.-based HealthTech Management Services recommended the issuance of an RFP to evaluate and hire a turnaround management team to quickly stabilize CHC operations and begin the implementation of recommendations.
The report calls for a team that includes an experienced chief executive officer, chief nursing officer, chief financial officer, and business office manager that can provide leadership to assist in correcting the deficiencies found by a U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services survey.
Villagomez said that based on Tuesday's meeting with the governor, Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos, and House leadership members, the federally funded HealthTech study was worth some $170,000.
Besides the source of funding, Villagomez is also asking whether the current CHC management team led by CEO Juan N. Babauta would continue to hold their positions while a turnaround management team performs its tasks.
If the existing CEO and the rest of the management team will continue holding their posts, then that could mean the government would be paying for two CEOs during the term of the contract with a turnaround management term. Babauta's annual salary is $96,000.
Press secretary Angel Demapan said, “This has not been discussed yet as the administration and corporation are currently reviewing the assessment report.
“Obviously, once the review is completed, necessary steps will then be decided in line with moving forward with the action plan,” Demapan said.
As to the source of funding to bring in a turnaround management team, Demapan said, “The administration would certainly look into opportunities to obtain federal funding assistance.”
“The current budget has already been obligated pursuant to the current fiscal year budget law. With such scarce local resources, it's difficult to imagine that reprogramming would even be possible,” he said.
Villagomez believes that HealthTech's $170,000 assessment report should have been done by a “transition” team, when the Department of Public Health was about to be transitioned to a corporation last year.
“But there was no transition team to begin with,” he added.
Camacho, for his part, said HealthTech's recommended plans for CHC look “promising.” But he said it boils down to available funding to implement any plans.
The governor, in his letter to Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) and House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan), said he plans to meet again with lawmakers to identify “most effective ways to improve medical services and will be taking immediate steps to implement the changes recommended in the recent analysis” by HealthTech.