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Friday, April 18, 2014

CHC’s CMS survey results out
Inos: Some ‘housekeeping’ issues remain to be addressed

Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. board chair Joaquin Torres separately confirmed with Saipan Tribune that the much-awaited result of the survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the public hospital has already been issued to the corporation, indicating a “better” outcome than previous findings.

Inos told Saipan Tribune that he just recently received the summary document of the CMS findings, which he said he has yet to fully examine.

“But as I understand it, there remains a number of housekeeping stuff that needs to be corrected by the hospital,” he said after attending Friday’s news briefing at the Northern Marianas Colleges.

Inos bared that among the “concerns” raised in the new CMS report are the posting of information for the public about patient’s rights, among others. He said that, despite not having “life-threatening” issues this time, “I am not going to diminish the importance of those things.”

Saipan Tribune learned that based on the hundred-plus-page document from CMS, the Commonwealth Health Center is required to submit a response in 10 days after receipt of the report.

Sources disclosed that the corporation received the CMS report early last week and that it was first reviewed by the management.

It will be recalled that the Commonwealth Health Center was earlier cited with numerous deficiencies that threatened the facility’s certification with Medicare. In rectifying these citations, a corrective action plan was developed and turned in to CMS, indicating resolution of the identified concerns.

On Sept. 9 last year, a five-member team from CMS arrived for a complete resurvey of the facility. Compared to the survey conducted in September 2012, the team did not raise any major concerns and deficiencies at the start of their weeklong inspection.

In the September 2012 survey, CHC was sanctioned with three immediate jeopardy statuses due to serious deficiencies uncovered only in the first two days of the team’s inspection. All these immediate jeopardy statuses were resolved last year.

CHCC board chair Torres said he has not received a copy of the results yet but he was assured by the corporation management that there’s nothing serious that he must be worried about.

“I was assured by the management that there are no serious findings this time. The concerns raised on the latest report, I was told, have already been corrected, if not in the process of being corrected,” Torres said yesterday.

Torres described the latest CMS report as “better than the previous” outcome handed to the hospital. If the governor can describe the concerns as more of housekeeping stuff, Torres believes the citations in the new report are “minor issues” that would soon be addressed by the corporation.

He disclosed that among the “issues” raised and is in the process of completion is the HVAC project, or the heat, ventilation and air-conditioning system at CHC. The Inos administration has assured $5 million for this project, to be sourced from untapped CIP monies. Design and bidding are now in the works.

There was also a concern about some medical equipment, it was bared.

When asked what’s next for CHC, Torres emphasized the need to sustain the progress and improvements at the public hospital.

“Our goal is always to serve beyond the minimum standards. We want to ‘raise the bar’ so we could continuously provide quality healthcare to our people,” he said.

Torres said that CHC’s Condition of Participation with CMS remains and that the public hospital would continue to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the federal agency.

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.


Inos disclosed to Saipan Tribune that the permanent appointment of Esther Muña to the CEO position will primarily hinge on the result of the CMS survey.

“I am going to closely look at the CMS report and make my own judgment as to whether they are substantive or not. And then I will make the decision on that issue,” Inos told Saipan Tribune.

Muña has been the CEO in an interim capacity since March last year after the termination of former CEO Juan N. Babauta.

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