Inter-island medical referral resumes

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Posted on Jun 30 2011

Rota and Tinian medical referral patients can now heave a sigh of relief following Freedom Air’s assurance yesterday it will immediately resume transporting patients to Saipan as the government honors its obligation to the airline.

The Rota and Tinian Legislative Delegations jointly held a public hearing yesterday morning on the partial suspension of inter-island medical referrals, which forced Rota and Tinian medical referral patients to pay for their own fare to seek medical help on Saipan.

Freedom Air manager Dennis Cruz told senators that the airline is lifting its temporary suspension on transporting medical referral patients, provided that the airline will be given a government travel request or authorization a week after the actual transport of the patient.

Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson said that Freedom Air earlier claimed that the government owes it some $122,000 for transporting Rota and Tinian patients to and from Saipan. After negotiations, the “unresolved” figure is down to $24,000, Larson said, representing past due obligations dating back two or three years ago.

Larson said Finance is now current in its payment, following yesterday’s fresh payment of some $47,000 to Freedom Air.

Medical referral administrator Ron Sablan said the issue of payments and transporting patients is “workable.” Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez, Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz and Tinian Health Center’s Freddie Hofschneider were also at the hearing.

Sablan said patients who paid for their own fare to Saipan will be reimbursed later.

Another public hearing on the inter-island medical referral will be held by end of July.

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