Former Gov. Babauta urges Torres administration to address KCHC issue

FORMER Gov. Juan N. Babauta said the Torres administration should step in to resolve the issues affecting the Kagman Community Health Center.

Babauta was the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s chief executive officer when it received, on June 20, 2012, a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that allowed CHCC and the Kagman community to build the Kagman clinic which was designated as a federally qualified health center.

It was the first time the CNMI had been awarded a Section 3 grant, Babauta said, and it came at a time when the commonwealth was in financial crisis and its only hospital was under a state of emergency.

Juan N. Babauta

He said the grant application was first submitted in 2003, the year the KCHC board was formed. The application was disapproved, but the board submitted another application in 2004.

It took eight years before the application was approved because there were so many justifications and data that needed to be submitted to the Health Resources and Services Administration, Babauta said.

On April 5, 2013, the Kagman health center officially opened its doors.

In an interview on Wednesday, the former governor said the closure of the Kagman health center “essentially denies the residents of Kagman and surrounding areas access to critically needed primary healthcare services that are 100 percent federally funded.”

He added, “The Kagman community and the surrounding areas face serious health issues such as high rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and very poor preventive care including prenatal care. Based on other information submitted to HRSA in the grant application, Kagman suffers from high childhood and adult asthma rates, poor oral health care and high alcohol and tobacco use among adults and teens alike.”

Babauta said “to watch all these critical health services and programs go down because of misunderstanding and property ownership issues may cause the center to lose the grant and its designation as a federally qualified health center. That would be unfortunate, but it can be resolved with the intervention of the administration by stepping in to take action by issuing an executive order to resolve the property dispute in favor of  KCHC.”

Babauta said the administration should immediately convene an emergency meeting with the CHCC board of trustees to resolve the administrative dispute between CHCC and KCHC.

“Right now, it’s all talk and no action while the residents of Kagman are being denied access to essential primary healthcare that they deserve,” Babauta said.

Asked for comment, the Torres administration issued the following statement:

“Before the news broke out of the clinic’s closure, Governor Torres had taken an active role while away in coordinating with stakeholders and the community to see the continuity of vital health care services for the Kagman community and the surrounding villages. Even while away, the governor has been on conference calls with the various stakeholders, ascertaining the facts and providing tangible solutions. This is an important issue for the people living in Kagman who are in need of consistent medical service. Governor Torres is pleased with the relationships he has built with both the boards of CHCC and KCHC and thanks them for their commitment to cooperation in order to reach a beneficial solution for the people of Kagman. Improving the islands’ healthcare system overall is a primary goal of this administration, and we have made great progress despite the consistent management issues related to CHCC since its inception.”

KCHC board chair Velma Palacios, for her part, said:

“KCHC is committed with working with the governor to expand health care services to the villages and Tinian and Rota in the years ahead.  Governor Torres has been consistently supportive of KCHC and the health needs of the Kagman community since day 1. The KCHC board of directors appreciates Governor Torres concern and effort. I’m working with Governor Torres and we know KCHC can continue to provide healthcare service to the Kagman community for years to come.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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