‘CHCC still short by $20M’

With shortfall, CHCC asks additional funds allowable under ARPA

Based on the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s projected expenditures as well as their projected revenues, and what Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has proposed as its budget in fiscal year 2022, CHCC is still short by $20 million.

With the shortfall and in addition to other infrastructure improvements to fight the pandemic, CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña informed the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means at yesterday’s hearing for the CHCC budget that they have asked Torres for additional funds that are allowable under ARPA.

Muña said their overall request in ARPA funds is $114.2 million, while their budget request for fiscal year 2022 is $24.7 million. She said the $24.7 million includes Medicaid of about $12 million.

Muña said on top of hospital improvements and enhanced services, they also asked for the balance owed to CHCC from public laws and appropriation totaling $12,482,329.

Joining Muña at the committee hearing were CHCC financial officer Perlie Santos and CHCC chief operations officer Subroto Banerji. Other CHCC officials were also present.

Committee chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) said that, from what they are hearing from all these government agencies, they have been meeting with the administration to request additional funds through the ARPA.

“So until we see what the governor has submitted, we won’t know how. We’ll have to wait and see how we can address their concerns, especially with CHCC,” he said.

Manglona said the Legislature may be receiving the governor’s revised proposed fiscal year 2022 budget by July 1.

Manglona said they’re basically hearing out most of the agencies’ concerns and will be done with all budget hearings by end of the month.

“And so come first week of July, members will meet to discuss all the concerns that were brought up by all agencies,” Manglona said.

In her testimony, Muña said they requested for funding to address some identified gaps in funding for more accessible care for the people. “We can do more by addressing the gaps from care and investments we’ve already made for improvements,” Muña said.

She said that last March, the CHCC, with the board of trustees’ approval, submitted the fiscal year 2022 budget as it relates to the health of all CNMI residents.

Unfortunately, even with all of the CHCC’s involvement and in working with the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force in preventing the COVID-19 infection from spreading wildly within the CNMI, the funding appropriated to CHCC in fiscal year 2021 stunned them, Muña said.

“If we can put a value on what we do, the pandemic would and should have been one major indicator of how important our work is and how important health is to the CNMI population,” she said.

Muña said it was the federal agencies that eventually provided the support to CHCC for contact tracing, testing, and vaccinations.

She emphasized that these funds are dedicated to allowable costs and that CHCC still needs revenues produced by hospital services. The CEO said hospital services require hospital staff and that contact tracing, testing, and vaccinations require the same people that are providing hospital services.

“The juggling of personnel is a daily chore for all of us,” she pointed out.

Muna said the grants that are open for the CHCC to apply for are focused on the pandemic. “We have yet to see a notice of funding opportunity that focused on hospital and clinic services,” the CEO said.

Muña said they have medical and nursing staff that are committed to doing more for this community they came to love. “We continuously seek to bring much-needed specialty care to our people. We can do more. We want to do more. Let us do more together!” she said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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