09 May 2018
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE Kagman Community Health Center board said they decided to break with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. “due to gross mismanagement and financial irregularities.”
In a press statement on Tuesday, the board said it wants to set the record straight regarding the issue between CHCC and KCHC.
It added that CHCC’s lack of concern over the healthcare of the people of Kagman and the federal dollars entrusted to them led the KCHC board to make the decision to separate.
“The KCHC board has put in place all the policies necessary for the clinic to operate independently and has the funds to do so through its federal grant. The board has considered signing a lease to operate in another facility, but held off due to assurances that KCHC would be able to reoccupy the original clinic at the request of the community and leaders. The board met on May 3 and agreed to delay the signing of its lease until May 11, in the hopes that the land-use issue would be resolved,” the KCHC board said.
The KCHC board and CHCC officials headed by CEO Esther Muna were invited by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation to an oversight meeting to shed light on the closure of the Kagman clinic.
At that meeting, it was concluded that CHCC was not contesting the land and was willing to give up the Kagman property originally designated to CHCC.
It was also decided that the property would be transferred to the Department of Public Lands and leased to KCHC.
However, after DPL’s meeting with Attorney General Edward Manibusan and acting Gov. Victor Hocog, it was decided that the property will now be re-designated to the Office of Governor so the Kagman clinic will be allowed to continue its operations at the current site.
KCHC and CHCC were partners and co-applicants in a Section 330 Federally Qualified Health Center grant. That partnership ended when KCHC applied for the same grant independently and without CHCC as co-applicant.
KCHC will be operating as a private entity under the new grant which started on May 1.
According to the KCHC board, in 2014, CHCC used KCHC grant money to pay its loan to the Marianas Public Land Trust “for the benefit of CHCC but in contravention” of the co-applicant agreement between CHCC and KCHC.
“Due to inadequacies in the CHCC administration and inability to present financial policies to the federal government, KCHC came within days of defunding in 2014. A policy was submitted by CHCC to appease the grantor but this was not followed. After the next site inspection by the grantor in 2016, another citation was issued for the same deficiency. Internal controls were finally established in 2017. Additionally, the grant was put on a prior approval drawdown restriction by the grantor due to audit findings,” the KCHC board said.
It added that in spite of maintaining ample funds, “at times, KCHC was unable to get needed medical equipment and supplies because vendors refused to do any business with CHCC due to overdue unpaid invoices. Vendors frequently called, reporting that invoices were 90 to 120 days past due.”
The KCHC board kept the separation secret from CHCC CEO Esther Muna “because of her pattern of abusive and vindictive behavior.”
The KCHC board chair, Velma Palacios, sent Muna a letter on March 13, 2015 to ask for the status of the recruitment of a physician for KCHC and transfer of funds without board approval.
On Oct. 21, 2014, Palacios also sent Muna a letter to inform her of the unauthorized use of funds.
The board members said that after their letter of March 13, 2015 and Oct. 21, 2014, “retaliation by Muna started and continues.”
“There was legitimate concern that staff would be fired and the clinic would be closed. Unfortunately, these worries came to fruition as evidenced by the firing of [KCHC] CEO Vince Castro just days after notifying CHCC of the separation, and the lockdown of KCHC just 31 days after notification. CEO Muna attempted to intimidate staff of KCHC by telling them that they would not be paid by the new organization. We expect the harassment to continue, but KCHC is not intimidated.”
The board said it is encouraged by the continued outpouring of support from the community and is thankful to clients for their patience during this time of transition.
KCHC said limited services will continue at the Santa Soledad Parish Hall until further notice.
Asked for comment, CHCC CEO Esther Muna said she will issue a statement later this week.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/104291-kchc-slams-chcc