A five-member team from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that’s doing a top-to-bottom inspection of the Commonwealth Health Center entered its seventh day yesterday with no major issues being raised so far.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. interim CEO Esther Muña confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday that the federal team, led by survey certificate and enforcement branch manager Rufus Arther, remains on island and continues to monitor the operation of the hospital.
The group arrived unannounced on Sept. 9 for a complete resurvey of the facility.
Compared to the initial survey in September 2012, the Medicare team has so far not raised any major concern or deficiency they may have uncovered since the first day of their inspection last week.
CHC was sanctioned with three immediate jeopardy statuses after the September 2012 survey due to serious deficiencies uncovered only in the first two days of the team’s inspection.
According to Muña, she expects the exit conference with the federal group to take place within a day or two.
“The team is still on island and we expect them to finish tomorrow [Wednesday] or the next day. None yet being raised,” Muña said.
Whenever a survey is completed, the Medicare team always conducts an exit interview with the participating provider to share the team’s findings. The provider is then given 10 days to correct any issue raised by the visiting team.
In a separate interview yesterday, corporation board chair Joaquin Torres expects the exit interview to occur before Friday. Board members usually participate in the exit conference.
Torres expressed optimism yesterday that the public hospital would finally get out from being decertified by CMS due to the progress made—and still being made—by the corporation.
“It looks like the survey is going well…so far, so good. Although I am pretty sure that something still needs to be corrected, I have no reason to think that we will be in any source of trouble again because we maintained our focus in rectifying all the deficiencies and concerns they raised,” Torres said.
He cited the existing air-conditioning system at the facility, which remains a concern for CMS. However, he said that funds have already been identified to procure the equipment and it is now in the process.
Muña earlier disclosed to Saipan Tribune that the Executive Branch has approved a $5 million CIP funding for the hospital’s HVAC (air-conditioning), fire sprinklers, fire pumps, and elevators.
CHC receives about $22 million a year in reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare. Without the certification for continued Condition of Participation, CHC stands to lose this huge federal assistance.
CMS first threatened to terminate CHC’s Condition of Participation in September last year due to layers of immediate jeopardy uncovered at the facility.