CHCC officials, personnel: No to Maratita bill

COMMONWEALTH Healthcare Corp. employees led by Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna and other community members gathered in the House gallery on Friday to express their opposition to the bill that would abolish CHCC.

House Bill 20-149 was introduced by Vice Speaker Janet Maratita who was also the acting presiding officer on Friday afternoon. Speaker Ralph Demapan was off-island.

Among those who spoke against the bill were CHCC Director Jesse Tudela, Dr. John Boyle, Koblerville resident Jack Muna, casino commissioner Alvaro Santos, CHCC research associate Samantha Birmingham-Babauta, Tinian Health Center Director Marjorie Daria, Tanapag resident Sheila Babauta, CHCC laboratory director Philip Dauterman, and resident Joe Mendiola.

Department of Public Works public information officer Felipe Atalig was the only one who spoke in favor of the bill.

CHCC board chair Laurie Ogumoro also opposed the bill and submitted her written comment.

Those opposed to the bill said CHCC is not the problem but lack of funding is.

Atalig said Maratita should be commended for introducing the bill and should not be “intimidated.”

“This bill is a wake-up call for all of us. The management of our lone hospital has failed in their duties to correct deficiencies. They were given ample time to correct them, but still they failed,” he said.

Maratita said since the inception of CHCC in 2011, the hospital has remained dependent on government funding.

She said one of the objectives of Public Law 16-51, which created CHCC, is to allow it to be self-sufficient. The law also required the hospital to develop a strategic plan with regard to accounts receivables and establish an accounting system, she added.

The House gallery was jam-packed on Friday as the bill to abolish the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. was formally introduced by acting Speaker Janet U. Maratita. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

She said six years later, CHCC has yet to fulfill these requirements as reflected in the audit reports for fiscal years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“Despite Public Law 16-51 requiring CHCC to be self-sufficient, it continues to place blame on the government for its inability to provide quality healthcare for CNMI residents while continuing to rely on government funds,” she said.

She said because CHCC is an autonomous agency, the Legislature has no say on how the funds allotted to the healthcare corporation are used.

Maratita then created a special committee to review her bill. She also appointed herself as the chair of the special committee whose members are Reps. Alice Igitol, Joe Itibus, John Paul Sablan and BJ Attao.

Igitol, Itibus, Sablan are co-sponsors of her bill.

During the session on Friday, Maratita recommended the suspension of the session to allow the legislative fiscal analyst to make a presentation that would support her statements regarding the CHCC.

But Rep. Edwin Propst objected and said that if the legislative fiscal analyst was to be afforded that opportunity, CHCC’s CEO and chief financial officer Derek Sasamoto should also be allowed to make a presentation.

Maratita rejected Propst’s request. House Floor Leader Glenn Maratita then moved for a recess which Maratita granted.

During the recess, Maratita. Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero and the other House members had a closed-door discussion in the speaker’s conference room.

When the session resumed, Maratita announced that there would be no presentations and that the House would instead discuss the other bills on the agenda.

Maratita said her committee would conduct a public hearing on H.B. 20-149. The date will be announced soon.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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