Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos blasted yesterday top Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. officials for their absence in at least three health-related proclamation signings, questioning their sincerity and support for health programs.
In a rather unusual address to a crowd gathered in the governor’s conference room, Inos said if the governor or the lieutenant governor finds the time to sign proclamations related to health, so should top health officials.
Roxanne Diaz, Public Health Services director at CHC, defended her superiors by saying that they, especially chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta, were working on the corporation budget. She also said CHC is at risk of not having a timely payroll.
“I’m here on their behalf,” said Diaz, adding that she regrets CHC top officials’ absence and understands Inos’ concerns.
Inos, in response, said he and the governor also deal with finances and budget every day and still make time for scheduled proclamation signings.
Diaz was the only CHC official present during yesterday morning’s signing of a proclamation declaring January 2012 Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The rest were employees, along with other administration officials and guests such as 2011 Miss Liberation Day Queen Joni Castro.
Babauta, in a brief phone interview, said he was at the Legislature presenting the corporation’s budget separately; first at the Senate then at the House. That was prior to the Legislature’s post-Christmas lunch on Capital Hill.
“The director of Public Health was there to represent us. I was at the Legislature presenting our budget,” Babauta told Saipan Tribune.
The proclamation signing was set for 9:30am but didn’t start until a little after 10am.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) confirmed that Babauta met with him to present the corporation’s budget, and financial requests that include a $10 million revolving fund. He said the meeting was around 11am.
Inos, in an interview after the proclamation signing, reiterated his concerns about the absence of top CHC officials. He said he and the governor also deal with the same issues that corporation officials deal with.
“I don’t know what goes down there…I’m sure they meet every day. This is probably the third proclamation [signing] that we had concerning health care. Like I said, they were conspicuously absent,” Inos told reporters.
In his proclamation, Inos urged all women in the CNMI to discuss a preventive and screening program with their healthcare provider and become aware that they are at risk of getting cervical cancer.
CHC said “too many women in the CNMI have died from cervical cancer.” These were preventable deaths, it added.
Cervical cancer can be prevented through screening and treatment of pre-cancerous conditions. It can also be prevented by the HPV vaccine.[B]‘Sacrifices, challenges’[/B]
Inos said the year was full off challenges and sacrifices. He said the fact that many employees are getting paid only 64 hours instead of 80 hours biweekly was “sacrifice” enough not only for themselves but for their families as well as the fiscal year 2012 budget stood only at $102 million from $122 million.
The challenges were not confined to government employees. Even the private sector has cut work hours and reduced the number of their employees.
“It was a challenge and we hope that we will be over that and we see some positive signs. More flights coming in, increased tourism activity, we hear about potential investments in the northern side of the island. Those are good signs. At least it tells you that people are still interested in investing,” he told reporters.
He said they will have a 2013 budget call next week.