Santos vows public hearings this time


A controversial bill that changes the advisory board of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. into a governing one has been prefiled at the Senate.

However, Sen. Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota) promised that unlike previous attempts to enact a similar measure, Senate Bill 19-04 this time would go through the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, which she chairs, as well as go under public scrutiny via public hearings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

“After the prefiling of that bill, I will be scheduling a meeting with committee members regarding the bill. At the same time we will be conducting public hearings in all three senatorial districts. It’s very controversial so we’re making an effort to conduct public hearings and make sure it will be thoroughly reviewed at the committee level. The general consensus is the bill should be heard before a decision is made,” said the freshman senator from Rota, who, as a representative in the 18th House of Representatives, voted to return a similar bill (SB 18-52) to the Committee of Health and Welfare.

SB 19-04 states that the structure and business model creating the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is not functioning and producing the results intended by Public Law 16-51—the law that created CHCC—and there are some other concerns regarding the act that need to be addressed.

One of the concerns is the need for a governing board of trustees instead of an advisory body.

“Accordingly, having a governing board of trustees would ultimately help to produce a higher degree of efficiency not just in the decision-making process but also in the overall planning and formulation of effective management policies,” the bill reads.

The purpose of 19-04 is to amend certain provisions of Public Law 16­ 51 to allow for a smooth transition from the department to the new healthcare corporation, therefore empowering the board of trustees “to make policies and perform all acts necessary and expedient to ensure the delivery of quality care in a financially responsible manner for the people of the Commonwealth.”

Santos said she has communicated with the chairwoman of the Committee on Health and Welfare at the House, Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), who also concurred with the prefiling of the bill as well as the conduct of public hearings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

“Hopefully we could conduct public hearings at the earliest time possible. This way we would accord to our general public the opportunity to provide testimony regarding this measure,” she said.

It will be recalled that the House hearing on SB 18-52 last Dec. 29 saw CHCC CEO Esther Muña and the CHCC board of trustees, led by chair Joaquin Torres, getting embroiled in a fiery debate that at times broke the decorum of the lower chamber.

At one point, House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) and then floor leader Ralph Demapan (R-Saipan) called for both camps to calm down and that order be restored in the session after Torres called one of the witnesses a liar.

Rep. Roman Benavente (Ind-Saipan) was so incensed with the infighting among the islands’ healthcare executives that the Precinct 1 representative scolded both Muña and Torres for their unprofessional behavior.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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