Senate Committee on Health and Welfare chair Sen. Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota) has advised the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. management not to use the poor as an excuse in plans of establishing its own pharmacy.
CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muna is looking into no longer renewing PHI Pharmacy’s lease at the hospital, which is set to expire on Aug. 14 this year.
She plans to have CHCC take over the pharmaceutical needs of its patients where she is proposing that the CNMI apply under the United States government’s 340B Drug Pricing Discount Program.
The program, established in 1992, requires drug manufactures to provide outpatient drugs and other prescribed medicines to eligible healthcare organizations and entities at a considerably reduced price.
Muna said they began discussing the 340B Drug Discount program with representatives of the Office of Pharmacy Affairs, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services’ Human Resources and Services Administration.
“The conclusion of those discussions was that the only way for the CHCC’s outpatient clinics, with the exception of the Kagman Community Health Center, which is already eligible, would be to register these clinics as federally qualified health centers or ‘look-a-likes.’ This is a complex and daunting process with many requirements to fulfill,” said Muna in a letter to Committee vice chair Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan).
“Fortunately though, very recently, the Office of Pharmacy Affairs advised the CHCC that we should apply during the next application period in July as a disproportionate share hospital. It was previously believed that the CHCC did not qualify for this status due to its location in a non-U.S. state and the CNMI’s ineligibility for the DSH funding adjustment.”
Muna said the CHCC would still attempt to register, using the DSH designation, to be a 340B covered entity thru HRSA when the registration period begins on July 2.
Santos, however, is suggesting otherwise and does not support CHCC’s plan to replace PHI Pharmacy with its own to assist low-income outpatients. “When government competes directly [against] private firms, the net result is chaos on several fronts especially when vital services are provided for our people and community.”
“In the first instance, it is highly doubtful the PHI Pharmacy has committed an gregarious failure in its contract or service to outpatient here. In fact, it is deafening that no one has complained of it service at both CHCC and its outlet in Dandan.”
She said that PHI has invested in the CNMI through employment and training of its local staff and suggested that CHCC should focus on improving their services instead. “We should not use the poor as an excuse to overlook the fact as the same are covered sufficiently by Medicaid.”
“To concoct a pharmacy by ousting a fully poised firm now in place would mean passing along another layer of costs to taxpayers unnecessarily. CHCC must focus on improving patient care and spend public funds where it counts—blankets, pillows, bed sheets, toiletries, and most importantly vital medical equipment.”