‘KCHC closing a disservice’

Palacios weighs approaching DPL to revoke CHCC grant of public domain

Reps. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), left, and Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) review a bill as Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), right, converses with Rep. Blas “BJ” Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan) during yesterday’s Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation session. (Erwin Encinares)

The Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation after a five-hour session believes it is appropriate to conduct an investigation on the recent closing of the Kagman Community Health Center.

The delegation in yesterday’s lengthy session discussing other matters said they see it fitting that the delegation start conducting investigations on the recent shutdown of the sole healthcare provider in the Kagman area, with Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) even referring to it as a “disservice.”

“Two members [along with the other delegation members] concurred that we should have something official coming from the delegation because KCHC is on Saipan,” said delegation chair Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) on the matter in an interview.

Sablan disclosed that the delegation would be summoning both the KCHC and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to find out what transpired between the two prior to the former’s closing.

“We all know that the [KCHC’s] inception…has availed valuable services not just to the community of Kagman but to the surrounding areas…many of our constituents in the community have availed of its services,” said Palacios.

“I was hopeful that the [chief executive officer] of CHCC and the director of [KCHC] would be able to work out their differences in terms of who is running KCHC. Obviously that didn’t work out,” he added.

Palacios stated that he was considering approaching the Department of Public Lands to request them to “revoke the grant of public domain it issued to CHCC and reissue the grant of public domain to KCHC.”

Delegation committee on Health and Welfare Vice Speaker Janet Maratita (R-Saipan) said that in a recent meeting with the CHCC CEO Esther Muña, she found out that KCHC’s closing had “nothing to do with CHCC.”

“…It’s the doctor at KCHC that decided to close the center,” Maratita reported to the delegation of her recent meeting with Muña. She added that she would be meeting with Muña in a closed-door meeting late afternoon yesterday.

Maratita said in a brief conversation yesterday that KCHC was reportedly closed down for training since April 27, 2018.

House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan) said when he learned of KCHC closing, he tasked House Health Committee chair Rep. Jose Itibus (R-Saipan), who then reported to the delegation that the CHCC board has reportedly instructed the CHCC CEO not to close the clinic.

“…The position of the board on that is they do not want [KCHC] to close down and they really laid it down to her that they want the clinic to [continue operating]. Whatever is going on between the CEO and the director of KCHC…is internal,” he said, adding that he reportedly received assurance from a CHCC board member that they instructed Muña not to close KCHC.

Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), who is vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, said that he concurs with Palacios on conducting an oversight and fact-finding on KCHC and CHCC.

Getting heated, Igisomar believes there is “…incompetence and irresponsibility happening.”

“Whose mess [are we] supposed to clean up again?” asked Igisomar, adding that he was aware that it was their duty as legislators to address such issues, but it “frustrates [him] that it occurs.”

“We will go ahead and listen to [them] because it is very irresponsible; KCHC provides 100 percent payment on Medicaid, and a lot of people go there for that, and we need that center,” he said. “Somebody’s got to fire somebody,” said Igisomar, adding that “this should not have happened and it should have gotten this far.”

KCHC reportedly to schedule clinics June 2018

According to a statement from Muña, the KCHC closed not due to conflicts, but under the prerogative of Dr. Katherine Elstun, who is currently the KCHC medical director.

“During our conversation with Dr. Katherine Elstun on April 30, 2018, we learned that the nonprofit organization is cancelling clinics all week and that they will not be scheduling clinics until June 2018,” Muña said.

Elstun reportedly closed the clinic since April 27, 2018 for “training.”

“As the medical director of KCHC, we expect that she is in the best position to understand her patients’ health needs,” Muña said.

Muña added in a statement that CHCC is required by law to put in place management controls immediately after the expiration of the Federally Qualified Health Center grant, which is scheduled to expire yesterday.

A federal law mandate requires CHCC to impose management controls immediately after the expiration of the FQHC grant. According to her statement, the CHCC has already completed an initially physical inventory of clinic assets.

“[Health Resources and Services Administration], the grantor, has communicated guidance and instructions to CHCC in the disposition procedures. One of the most important management requirements is the safeguarding of the assets to prevent loss, damage, or theft,” said the statement.

Regarding land disputes between CHCC and KCHC, the statement said the two would be meeting today to discuss the “new entity’s needs.”

“…Including the AG’s opinion on what CHCC can provide to KCHC. CHCC has also met with the employees of CHCC-KCHC to discuss the change of ownership. CHCC is committed to the health of the entire CNMI and will assist in the smooth separation between CHCC and KCHC.”

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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