07 May 2018
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE Department of Public Lands can resolve the conflict between the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Kagman Community Health Center, Saipan lawmakers learned on Friday.
After a lengthy oversight hearing in the House chamber, it was learned that DPL could lease the land where KCHC is located to the Kagman center.
The oversight hearing was conducted by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation’s Health and Welfare Committee chaired by Vice Speaker Janet Maratita.
Appearing before the committee were CHCC CEO Esther Muna, CHCC board members headed by chairwoman Lauri Ogumoro, KCHC executive director Vince Castro and the KCHCC board members headed by Velma Palacios.
The main issues discussed were the closure of the Kagman facility and who ordered it.
CHCC CEO Esther Muna denied ordering the closure, saying that it was the KCHC officials who made the decision.
“I would never chase patients out,” she added.
But KCHC Dr. Katherine Elstun said they did not close down the clinic which had to be relocated to the Santa Soledad Parish Chuch because, she pointed out, the locks had been changed by CHCC.
Muna said this was necessary to secure the equipment and assets of the clinic belonging to CHCC.
She noted that the KCHC board and officials promised that they would not make any decisions without discussing them first with CHCC.
But on March 29 2018, Muna said, “the CHCC board of trustees received a letter from Ms. Palacios, informing them that the KCHC board had applied for, and received, a Section 330 grant as a private, non-profit entity. The grant period for the private, non-profit operation of a community health center was to begin on May 1, 2018. Prior to this letter, there had been no indication made that KCHC had applied for a Section 330 alone, and there was no discussion with the CHCC as to how KCHC would begin its operations independently of the CNMI government’s health care system.”
Muna said they cannot at present transfer the land to KCHC because the land was officially designated to CHCC.
Palacios responded by saying that KCHC is “trying to provide healthcare services to the people — not just to the residents of Kagman but to the entire commonwealth. We went after federal funds so we could operate fully and deliver quality service to the public. It angers me [that some are making] it look like we are doing wrong. We are not doing anything wrong. Is it wrong to dream big and to improve the healthcare services in the CNMI? It’s campaign season and everybody here talks about healthcare, but the truth is nobody is really doing anything to improve the healthcare system…. I have a regular job [in the private sector], but I don’t mind going to the clinic and working for free just to find ways to improve its services. Our vision is to make the center a fully multi-functional center.”
Vice Speaker Maratita said the purpose of the oversight hearing was to find solutions to the problem and not to assign blame.
She said the people of Kagman and nearby areas have already been deprived of health services because of the closure of the clinic, and they just want to move on and fix whatever the problem is so people can again obtain health services at KCHC.
DPL acting Secretary Richard Villagomez was also present to answer questions from lawmakers.
For his part, Rep. Joe Itibus, chairman of the House Committee on Health and Welfare, read a portion of the attorney general’s letter to Muna.
According to the AG, Itibus said, “if CHCC is unwilling to allow KCHC to operate on the land in question, the Department of Public Lands could revoke the designation from CHCC. DPL could then lease the land to KCHC. Alternatively, DPL could designate the land to the governor’s office, with terms that would allow KCHC to operate on the premises.”
Maratita then urged DPL to review the matter expeditiously and come up with a draft memorandum of agreement “so we can all move forward.”
Villagomez, in an interview, said: “At this point, I don’t want to comment…because we have to review it first and I am not sure if we can come up with a decision soon. We still have to look into it and discuss it with the AG.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/104229-dpl-can-resolve-kagman-health-center-issue