A ranking executive from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is on island to check out the Commonwealth Health Center, which certification is up for review next month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Juan N. Babauta confirmed with Saipan Tribune that Sally Howard, the chief of staff of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was given a tour of the hospital yesterday afternoon. The visit, he said, was initiated by HHS in an effort to get a first-hand look at the hospital's situation.
Accompanying Howard in the tour yesterday were officials and representatives of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs headed by acting deputy assistant secretary Eileen Sobeck and OIA Director Nik Pula. The group was also joined by local health officials.
Prior to meeting corporation officials, the group met yesterday morning with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos.
Howard will be on island until Wednesday and is scheduled to meet with the local health officials.
Babauta said the visit also serves as a follow-up to the early visits conducted by OIA officials last year.
Howard's group toured all hospital units and departments and were shown the progress and corrective actions made to address the deficiencies cited by Medicare.
Babauta believes that the visitors were impressed by the amount of progress made since the OIA's visit last year.
He said the corporation appreciates the HHS secretary's efforts to “know and learn about CHC,” marking it as an indication of the agency's commitment to help CHC.
Howard has served as chief of staff for HHS since April 2011. Prior to this appointment, she served as acting general counsel and deputy general counsel in the HHS Office of General Counsel. Howard also served as chief counsel to the Office of Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson and former governor Sebelius. Prior to her service in government, Howard was in private practice for 10 years.