By HAIDEE V. EUGENIO and MONETH G. DEPOSA
Gov. Eloy S. Inos extended an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. on Friday, citing the continued need to pump funding to the hospital from outside CHC sources, a year after the original declaration was issued by former governor Benigno R. Fitial.
The emergency declaration since March last year allows for reprogramming of funds to CHC and suspends other statutory or regulatory provisions relating to the corporation.
In the new declaration, Inos indicated that the disruption of the provision of medical services by the Commonwealth Health Center poses a direct threat to the health and safety of people.
In an interview hours before extending the CHC emergency declaration, Inos said he had met with CHC chief executive office Juan N. Babauta and board members who separately talked about continuing “challenges” faced by the hospital.
Inos said CHC has been notified by federal authorities that, due to remaining deficiencies in CHC's operations and infrastructure, the hospital will cease to be eligible for Medicare/Medicaid payments, along with other penalties if the deficiencies are not promptly remedied.
“I think we all agreed we need to continue effort to bring stability to the HealthCare [Corp.]. Taking care of the citizens is the primary responsibility,” Inos told reporters.
The governor said funding for CHC is “still critical.”
“In order for us to be able to.mobilize funds and so forth or utilize outside CHC funds, an executive order is required,” Inos added.
Babauta welcomes the governor's latest declaration, saying this demonstrates that a lot still needs to be done at the corporation.
“The declaration continues to demonstrate that there still a lot of things needed to be done here; that the authority of the governor needs to be in place in view of everything that's going on. The new governor had extended his assistance to CHCC.and this is his way of continuing that effort,” Babauta said yesterday, confirming that he met with the governor Wednesday last week.
CHC provides not only the bulk of healthcare in the CNMI but also emergency medical services, so any disruption in these services poses a direct threat to people's health and safety.
The corporation is currently in arrears for payments to vendors and certain salary payments to or on behalf of employees.
Inos also extended the emergency declaration for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. on Feb. 20, shortly after he was sworn in as governor.
On March 12, Babauta disclosed that all team members from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will officially leave the corporation, leaving behind some critical posts unfilled such as the laboratory manager and a lab director.
Babauta revealed that once the team submits its “sustainability plan” upon exit, he will review and discuss its content with Inos and leaders of the Legislature.
“If it [plan] requires an emergency power to implement some of their recommendations, it will be very appropriate,” explained Babauta, adding that the corporation has requested the assistance of the Office of Insular Affairs and HHS in hiring a lab manager and lab director.
The corporation's board of trustees is gearing up for this week's meeting where it will decide the fate of babauta's continued employment.
An employees' survey is being conducted right now to aid the board in assessing the CEO's performance.
Babauta, who was earlier criticized by the board for leading a “dysfunctional” system at the agency, was mum on the issue about his contract and the possible decision that may be rendered by the board. Babauta's $96,000 per annum contract is expiring in July this year.