Poor leadership


Vice speaker Janet U. Maratita said her introduction of House Bill 20-149 to abolish the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and recreate a Department of Public Health under the governor’s office is not against the CHCC chief executive officer and has nothing to do with politics, but this is pure politics at its core and do you really think that our community and the entire community agree with you? Decisions like this should be based on facts. Stating it just doesn’t make it true.

Maratita said she knows the timing is bad, but she has been planning to introduce the bill since January 2016. When you said that the timing is bad, you’re saying that this is the right time to do it, because the governor is not happy with the CHCC CEO?

You were just elected in 2016. Doesn’t make sense when the governor signed the governing bill in January 2017. So 2018 comes and we have another bill that is threatening the CNMI healthcare. CHCC staff and management and the community can’t be wondering every year what will the governor or the Legislature would do. That is poor leadership on yours and the governor’s part.

CHCC staff and management need a stable governance. CMS requires that the hospital follow the laws of the CNMI. If the government keeps changing the laws because they can’t decide what’s best for the CNMI today, then CMS will have difficulty certifying an agency that changes when the political atmosphere changes. CMS regulations are clear and stable. Health for the CNMI should be too.

There are so many improvements since moving CHCC out of DPH. It is irresponsible to not recognize those improvements that occurred even with little support from the central government.

Maratita said her initial plan is to introduce a bill that will separate the Division of Public Health from CHCC. “I asked former public health officials and administrators and got their thoughts on this idea. They all advised me not to separate the two. Instead, they suggested reverting both to the central government as an executive department.”

Why former administrators and former officials? There are many issues of the hospital prior to it being part of the autonomous agency. For one, we know from previous statements of the CEO in hearings and in articles that CMS responded to a complaint when it was with DPH. CMS became concerned with how the hospital was governed under the Executive Branch. The complaint sent CMS to do a thorough survey of the hospital when it was under DPH. Being under CHCC, CMS saw changes and kept granting extension because they saw that there is a sign of improvement. CMS will not be granting extensions if there is absolutely no progress.

Once her bill becomes law, she said, the governor will appoint a Public Health secretary, director and administrator to run the hospital—no more board members. What makes you think that this is better without the board members? Our lives are on the line here!

Public Law 16-51, which abolished the Department of Public Health and created CHCC, has already been replaced by P.L. 19-78. Funding the hospital should be a responsibility of the CNMI government, especially since there is no universal insurance and there are people who are still without insurance or have little insurance to cover the costs of their healthcare. It doesn’t require legislation like this to ensure the governor is putting money to health. It requires lawmakers to ensure there is adequate appropriation to those in need.

We agree P.L. 16-51 has flaws. First, it created a corporation without proper funding. The so called “seed money” given to CHCC was $5 million for a $40 million operations. The government should be blamed for that. If the government can’t comprehend that it takes money to pay for quality healthcare, how is putting it back in their hands make it better for the public and the community?

Maratita said this is “about what is right and what is best for the public and the community” but since when did you become the mother of the land that you claim you know what is best for the public and the community?

What would be best for the public and the community is for the central government to provide enough money for what is needed to run the hospital and to ensure that our hospital provides better healthcare for our people. Leave politics out of it!

Maratita said the then-Department of Public Health received a budget of $37 million in fiscal year 2011 but it received a local subsidy of $4.7 million in fiscal year 2012 and has since then been dependent on federal funds. But CHCC was generating revenue too. Otherwise, it would not have survived the lack of support from the central government.

Jack Muña
Koblerville, Saipan

Contributing Author

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