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Monday, April 21, 2014

Senate panel eyes oversight hearing on CHCC

Senate Health Committee chair Sen. Jack Borja (Ind-Tinian) announced during Wednesday afternoon’s public hearing on a Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. board member nomination that his committee will hold an oversight hearing on the entire CHCC over what he later said was a need to treat Tinian and Rota fairly when it comes to health service funding and personnel salary increases, among other things.

Borja said this could be a joint oversight hearing with the House Committee on Health chaired by Rep. Antonio Agulto (Ind-Saipan).
He pointed out that Tinian Health Center’s budget, for example, is only $997,406 for fiscal year 2014, while Rota Health Center has $1.9 million.

Borja added that personnel salaries “including lab technicians, nurses, support staff or administrative staff are believed to be higher for those on Saipan than those on Tinian and Rota, despite having the same qualifications.”

“We want to get the answers from the corporation. Any oversight hearing is not only because there’s something negative; it could also be a way to improve services or add more services,” Borja told Saipan Tribune.

This comes weeks after the CHCC board approved a $40.9-million budget for this fiscal year, providing an additional 103 positions for the corporation.

Borja’s announcement of an oversight hearing Wednesday afternoon came moments after members of the Senate Committee on Executive Appointment and Government Investigations emerged from the president’s conference room.

During the EAGI panel’s public hearing on Roy T. Rios’ renomination as a member of the CHCC board of trustees, Borja made the unusual motion to go into an executive session. Senators seconded the motion.

EAGI Committee acting chair Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) allowed the executive session in order to get some “clarifications” from Rios.

The executive session, which started at 2:26pm and ended at 2:54pm, included Rios and CHCC interim chief executive officer Esther Muña.

CHCC board chair Jack Torres waited in the gallery, which was empty for the public hearing on Rios’ nomination, except for the governor’s office’s Nace Soalablai and special assistant for public transportation Thomas J. Camacho.

Rios, a Commonwealth Transit Authority planner, declined to discuss what transpired in the executive session. Nevertheless, he told senators he’s committed to taking up the job once again as a CHCC board trustee.

CHCC’s Muña and Torres also testified in support of Rios’ nomination and urged the Senate to confirm him.

“Mr. Rios possesses rare analytical skills for diagnosing problems and devising viable solutions. His ability to remain unflustered during frenzied and stressful periods proves his ability to work and deliberate well under pressure,” Torres told senators.

He said Rios’ skills and experience, intelligence, and maturity will continue to be a great asset to CHC.

“We have enormous challenges ahead, but we also have a solid record of accomplishments,” Torres added.

Camacho, in presenting the governor’s nominee to the Senate panel, said that Rios will serve another four-year term once he is confirmed.

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