‘Improper’ practices at CHC

Posted on Jan 24 2012

Practices that could only be called “improper” have been discovered and are still ongoing at the cash-strapped public hospital, continuing to drag down the facility’s fiscal condition, according to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta yesterday.

Speaking to members of the Saipan Rotary Club yesterday, Babauta disclosed that eight physicians from private clinics have been using the hospital’s services and supplies free of charge for many years, with the costs being shouldered by the Commonwealth Health Center.

Babauta was alluding to private clinic doctors who are working at CHC as locums or short-term hires. The former Department of Public Health would hire these short-term service providers to avert a shortage of doctors at the hospital. He did not name these physicians but said that they were paid huge amounts for their services.

Documents obtained by Saipan Tribune showed that one of these private doctors—a pediatrician—has been getting a base salary of $124,800 per year for just a few hours of service at CHC each day.

Another locum, a psychiatrist, is being paid $160,000 a year, while another, a nephrologist, is paid $45,000 a year.

“They come to CHC [to treat their patients using hospital services and supplies] and they walk out from any charges. We end up paying for lights, housekeeping, supplies, and others. This practice has been going on [for many years],” Babauta said.

Oftentimes, nurses have also been used by these private physicians to administer treatment to their patients.

He cited this practice as among the “CHC services that were delivered” but have never been charged.

He said the corporation plans to sit down with each of these private providers to evaluate the services that are being billed and paid for by CHC.

“I am glad that they are taking care of the patients in the community, but we have to benefit also from it…because they not only use our facility but oftentimes they are being assisted by our own nurses and are using our own medical supplies. We need to charge them because nothing is free anymore at the hospital,” he said.

According to Babauta, a new arrangement will be enforced and a standard policy on hospital privileges will be set in place. “Probably, we will deal with them individually on the type of services they provide to patients.”

[B]Flat rate vs standard[/B]

Babauta also disclosed that, for the last 30 years, CHC has been charging a very low flat rate—$400 per patient per day—for confinement at the hospital’s intensive care unit. This amount is inclusive of all services and supplies.

In contrast, if the actual rate is used, a patient will have to pay between $2,500 to $3,000 per night of stay at the hospital, he said.

“And we have discovered unnecessary longer stays in the hospital,” he said.

It is usually the doctor’s prerogative to decide whether he or she wants a patient to stay at CHC. “We need to work with our doctors on that,” he said.

Babauta admitted, however, that as much as the corporation wants to immediately implement changes to the existing rates, this can not be done without the full upgrade of what he calls the “charge master” that would detail each service codes and amounts. This system, he said, was last upgraded in 1982.

Due to the lack of a budget, he said the corporation is still scrambling to find the money to pay for an expert to do the upgrading. He is optimistic, though, that this will be done no later than this year or sooner.

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