CHCC says there’s no backup for the backup

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Posted on Aug 26 2020

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The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. decided last Aug. 20 to disconnect the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s power for six hours a day because of overdue billing. This begs the question, where would that leave the patients who are in the intensive care units, patients who are in need of surgery, or even patients who are getting regular treatments?

CHCC chief executive officer, Esther Muña, told lawmakers at the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs Committee Budget Hearing last Aug. 25, that there is “no backup for the backup.” Which means that should CUC disconnect CHCC’s power starting Sept. 8, and CHCC will run their backup generator, if the first generator dies out within those six hours that CUC disconnects CHCC’s power, there is no other power source for that generator.

Muña also stated that she was not aware of CUC’s decision, and she learned through the media that CUC decided to cut the power starting Sept. 8.

According to Derek Sasamoto, CHCC chief finance operator, COVID-19-related funds could not be used for utilities, but “it’s something to take another look at.” Also, Sasamoto says that the hospital operates on a shortfall every year which is why they have utilities issues, and other issues as well.

Sasamoto said that when it comes down to budgeting, even six months in advance, and they won’t be able to make it, in terms of payroll, there’s a decision that needs to be made like: do they cut providers, do they cut services, do they not pay medical suppliers, and then pay their utility bill? Sasamoto hopes that since their utility bill is government to government, there will be some form of support.

According to Sasamoto, CHCC has been, and will continue to subsidize (paying part of the cost) of the community’s health care which is over $20 million every single year.

“If we’re being subsidized for utility bills because of cash flow issues for 25% of what we subsidize… I would think that’s a pretty decent trade off, especially we’re talking about life and death,” said Sasamoto.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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