IN RFP FOR CHCC MEDICAL MALPRACTICE INSURANCE
The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. sent out feelers for medical malpractice insurance for its physicians but got no biters, according to the Office of the Attorney General yesterday.
OAG Civil Division chief Christopher Timmons, counsel for CHCC and the CNMI government, said that CHCC published the request for proposals for medical malpractice insurance coverage for a month in both newspapers, yet got no response.
He pointed out that CHCC has previously sought quotations from all licensed insurers in the CNMI and has publicly sought competitive proposals for medical malpractice coverage, to no avail. That means CHCC has satisfied its obligations to investigate the availability and cost of medical malpractice insurance policies for its medical professionals.
Timmons said CHCC will take no further steps.
CHCC published the RFP in compliance with Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho’s order requiring the CNMI government to seek information as to the availability of professional liability insurance coverage for Commonwealth Health Center’s healthcare professional staff.
In the same order dated Aug. 28, 2017, Camacho stayed the medical malpractice lawsuit filed by Remedio Elameto and her common-law husband, Pedro Pua.
Elameto and Pua have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the CNMI government and former CHC doctors Gary Ramsey and Rajee Iver.
In the government’s report to Superior Court yesterday, Timmons said the RFP was broadly drafted to solicit multiple proposals for coverage.
Timmons said the RFP, which was closed last April 2, was published in the two newspapers on March 2, 9, 14, and 19.
He said the RFP was not published outside of the CNMI because, pursuant to statute, no person may act as an insurer and no insurer may transact insurance in the CNMI other than as authorized by a certificate of authority granted to it by the insurance commissioner.
Last October, Timmons also told the court that CHCC has inquired from all insurers licensed to sell insurance products in the CNMI whether they provide or willing to provide coverage for CHC doctors, but none had an affirmative response.
Claire Kelleher-Smith, counsel for Elameto and Pua, earlier said that this “very important problem”—the lack of medical malpractice insurance covering doctors practicing at CHC—has been plaguing the CNMI for years.
The other problem, Kelleher-Smith said, is the government’s reliance on the Government Liability Act, rather than obtaining medical malpractice insurance.
“This problem has been preventing victims of medical malpractice at CHC from obtaining meaningful recovery. That is the real problem,” she said.
In his order last Aug. 11 in connection with the couple’s lawsuit, Camacho invalidated the substitution provisions of the Government Liability Act.
Camacho ruled that the Government Liability Act’s damages cap, substitution provision, prohibition on punitive damages, and restriction on the availability of jury trials fail constitutional examination.
The ruling has prompted the OAG and Ramsey to file a joint request for the court’s immediate issuance of an order staying the case pending their appeal to the CNMI Supreme Court.
CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muna had earlier stated that medical malpractice insurance is not available in the Commonwealth, because the size of the medical community in the CNMI is too small to create a sufficient risk pool.
CHC is the only hospital and surgical facility on Saipan.
Elameto and Pua are suing the CNMI government and Iyer and Ramsey for medical malpractice, bad faith, and emotional distress and loss of consortium.
Elameto claimed that a surgical team at CHC left a 15-centimeter-long surgical clamp in her abdomen during a surgery to address her irregular periods and ovarian cysts at CHC on Saipan in August 2000.
It was in June 2014 or almost 14 years later when the surgical clamp was discovered and removed at Guam Memorial Hospital.