CUC to CHCC: Don’t insult our intelligence

Sablan: Disconnection of non-essential offices will depend on what CHC can’t pay

Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board chair David J. Sablan told the board Tuesday that he felt insulted by a statement made by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. management at their recent meeting over the latter’s utility debt.

“I got really angry when they [management] told us: ‘What shall we do? Chase patients out in the streets?’…Please don’t insult our intelligence because we know you will not do that. What we’re asking you is to pay your bills and if you can’t do [a conservation plan] internally then we will do it for you externally…because we will not jeopardize our future revenues [by] allowing you to continue consuming what you can’t pay,” Sablan told colleagues Tuesday as he recalled the conversation with CHCC executives.

Sablan, along with CUC attorneys James Sirok and Michael White, met Monday with CHCC management led by CEO Esther Muna and corporation board trustees Pedro Dela Cruz and Roy Rios. Also present at the meeting was a lawyer for CHCC.

During Tuesday’s CUC board meeting, Sablan said that CUC decided to give the CHCC a reprieve as a result of the commitment shown by Rios and Dela Cruz to resolve the issue with the utility agency.

“The two board members are in absolute agreement [with us] as they fully recognize the debts. And I pressed upon them that this is an issue of fairness. We have a major customer base being disconnected because they didn’t pay and here is CHCC taking a free ride with CUC for two years? That’s not fair,” he said.

At that Monday meeting with CHCC representatives, CUC rejected outright the hospital corporation’s offer to pay CUC $325,000 a month. This amount, Saipan Tribune learned, is some $200,000 lower than what the hospital consumes every month, based on its latest billing of $539,000.

“They have 25 accounts with us and we already know how much each account is consuming. We will prioritize disconnection to those non-essential services. The disconnection will equate what they can’t pay. Meaning, if they can pay only $325,000, then we will go down to that dollar level,” Sablan said.

This means essential units like operating rooms, pharmacy, morgue, and other critical sections will remain open, he said.

“[As part of their conservation plan], they can close down some [administrative] offices and put people together in one room, they can turn off lights and ACs when not in use, and there are buildings where they can check too,” Sablan told colleagues.

Immediate disconnection

Sablan instructed CUC counsel Sirok to formally write CHCC, memorializing what transpired at the May 6 meeting.

At the same time, the CUC management was given marching orders to immediately disconnect CHCC’s non-essential accounts if it fails to pay its monthly billing in full. The order starts after June 30.

“If they pay 100 percent by June [for the May billing], they will get a reprieve for the next month. If current again, another month of reprieve for them,” Sablan said, adding that the 90-day reprieve is with the condition that CHCC will remain current in its monthly bills.

If not, meters will be turned off in offices, waiting rooms, and other non-critical units to help lower the hospital’s monthly usage down to what it can afford to pay, he added.

CHCC owes the utility agency $11.901 million: $10.675 million for electrical, water, and wastewater services and $1.226 million in accrued late charges. Late charges continue to accrue on the accounts at a rate of 1 percent per month.

It was earlier revealed that CHCC receivables account for 52 percent of CUC’s total receivables from government customers, and approximately 43 percent of all accounts receivable across all customer groups.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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