CNMI's Hospitals on Life Support

February 13, 2012

Every time someone in the CNMI misspends federal funds, plays the shell game with the budget; cheats people of their federal tax stimulus money; violates the Hatch Act; messes with ARRA funds; discriminates against U.S. citizen children of foreign workers at federally funded offices like NAP and Head Start; cuts the hours of federally-paid employees; or steals wages from employees at an institution that receives significant federal funds it catches the attention of the federal officials. Then the federal officials begin an investigation. The CNMI should brace for one earthquake of an investigation.

First to be investigated should be the Commonwealth, Rota and Tinian Heath Centers. They are all existing on life support and have been for months. Residents in the CNMI with chronic illnesses may want to consider leaving to a place where stable and adequate health care facilities exist. Not only is the hospital broke and not paying employees, but it is out of supplies, equipment and other essentials. Hospitals are not the place to skimp or cut corners. Even though the health centers on all three islands are gasping to survive, officials take expensive trips, hire unneeded consultants, file expensive lawsuits against the federal government, and spend money on numerous other non-essentials.

Juan Babauta, the governor’s new hospital administrator, declared that the “hospital may close if workers walk out because they have not been paid.” Workers who are owed back pay should call the U.S. Department of Labor to find out if there is any way that the officials can help to collect the stolen wages. Foreign workers can also contact the federal ombudsman for help. They may also consider contacting a private attorney to sue the CNMI government to collect their months of unpaid housing allowances and all of the wages that are owed to them before the hospital is totally bankrupt. If all else fails (and it probably has by now) by all means they should walk out as Juan Babauta told the legislature that the cheated employees may do.

No one should have to work without pay. Does the governor work without pay? Does Babauta work without pay?

How many years have CHC, THC and RHC employees been ripped off by the CNMI government? Did the legislators do anything? Did the Governor? This is not a new issue by any means. Fix it already!

The hospital administrators did not collect their patients' payments for years and now the unpaid collectibles have skyrocketed to over $24 million. I guess the administration has given up on collecting the past due bills and is now looking at taking money from the Marianas Public Lands Corporation to use as a transfusion to save the ailing health care system. Babauta was at the CNMI House yesterday to push the passage of H.B. 17-248 a bill to turn over $11.58 million of Marianas Public Land Trust’s future interest income distribution to the health care corporation to be used for “operation needs” and an electronic health information technology development. The bill passed in a 16-2 vote and is headed to the Senate.

From the Marianas Variety:
Babauta told the lawmakers that for last week’s payday, CHC was only able to pay essential employees — doctors and nurses. They have not paid the nurses on Rota and Tinian, and he feels “so sorry” about it.

The former governor said the corporation needs $800,000 every payday for its 600 employees including those on Tinian and Rota.

“If we don’t have this [H.B. 17-278], we will be faced with a 40 percent cut across the board,” Babauta said.

He added that “there might be a walkout on the part of healthcare providers which may shut down the hospital.”

Asked why the corporation waited until election year to urge lawmakers to act on a problem healthcare officials already saw last year, Babauta said: “No, we’re not doing that. Please don’t inject politics into this. This is a serious matter.” 
Babauta said H.B. 17-278 is just a temporary measure to “carry us over so we can meet our obligations primarily to the employees.”

He added, “This is not permanent solution. What we’re going to do is, as we have indicated before, we are going to beef up our system, make it work so we are able to collect more.”
I have lost all respect for Juan Babauta. He "feels sorry about it?!" "It" being that the nurses on Rota and Tinian are not being paid. How does he think that those who have not been paid feel?

Don't inject politics into this? Really? What a joke! Everything in the CNMI is political. The fact that no one was ever made to pay the damn bills was political. I would bet that the majority are fees owed by employers for their foreign worker employers' medical treatments –bills that the criminal employers never paid just like they never paid their workers' salaries.

Want to get really sick? Look at the photo from the Marianas Variety yesterday where Fitial, the king of Saipan is sitting on his throne with a microphone talking to his subjects. Not sick enough yet? Read the story.

Not getting paid? Absolutely walk out! Seriously, any foreign worker who is employed at the CNMI's hospitals should start applying for jobs elsewhere now before they have more wages stolen or are among those that Babauta plans to fire to keep the hospitals alive.


Anonymous said...

This is a very dangerous situation. If you are a parent with small children get them off island to Hawaii or the Philippines immediately. If something were to happen to them they would not receive the needed care now or in the future. PRIVATE CLINICS ARE NOT HOSPITALS! You owe it to them and their safety. DO IT NOW! CHC may have only a few weeks left. The US Navy may fly in surgical field stations but that could be months away.

Anonymous said...

Actually, yes, Juan N. Babauta does work without pay, for the same reason that Senator Pete P. Reyes does -- his generous retirement annuity suffices.

But your point is made. Compensation is part of an employment contract. Non-receipt of salary is a good reason to take some time off until remuneration is forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

CHC needs a medical billing specialist to come to the hospital and train both doctors and nurses on how to maximize billing. To get the patients out of the hospital using the least amount of bed days and the most amount of insurance reimbursement. To bill at ever step of the hospital process and to even code for the doctor's phone consultations. They also need to look at increasing Nursing Assistant and unlicensed staff responsiblities, such at vitals, and any unskilled nursing duties. They also need to look at providing a technician course for the taking of blood and dialysis so that local youth can be employed at a lower wage also saving money. As for collections, they need to hire full time lawyers and assistants with collection experience to go to Court daily to garnish paycheck, and levy property to satisfy debts. Or they should simply sell the hospital to a private company who will do these things on their own.

Anonymous said...

The CNMI needs to ban the importation of cigarettes, SPAM, betelnut and alcohol which kill far more people than 'ice' or any other drug out there. CHC is overwhelmed because 80% of the indigenous people are plagued by diabetes, heart disease and many other preventable diseases. The same thing is happening all over Micronesia. Forty five is considered old age. You can watch Doctors on TV trying to tell people to eat healthier foods. Well, those same Doctors made millions off of unhealthy people and were happy to do it. Same with the pharmacies. They thrive off of rx medicine and make a killing with medicade. It's a vicious unrelenting cycle of making cash off of disease.

Anonymous said...

Even if a court awarded anything from the Govt from a lawsuit, that will not force the Govt. to . As has been shown over and over again.
Also there is no law on the books in the CNMI to be able to Garnishee wages.(except for child support)

The old saying, "you can't get blood from a turnip" applies here.
I do not know the legality of this "New Health Corp." if the Corp. will protect the NMI Govt. against any lawsuits.
Best these people walk as this will be the only way that "maybe" something might get fixed.

Anonymous said...

the legislature has made the Govt and CHC nearly immune from lawsuits. they can kill you and you ahve no recourse. need a private hospital. too many years of locals not paying has created this mess.

Anonymous said...

There will never be a private hospital in the CNMI - not enough real customers to pay. Any lawyer who sues CHC needs to check themselves into the psych ward. 50K is all you will ever see if that. A patient was set on fire and died. Total negligence and incompetence. You go to CHC to die. It's become a hospice center really. If your loved one is checked in it makes no difference how much you scream, whine and threaten a lawsuit you will be stuck with a sub par medical facility.

Anonymous said...

I would guarantee that few doctors or nurses at CHC are aware of the specific medicare reimbursement rates or codes to even qualify for half of the procedures that are going on. That is the main problem with CHC. Most of the elderly in the CNMI do qualify for medicare which is reimbursed 100% for hospital stays. Tinian and the Rota Medical Centers are not even certified to bill Medicare at all. How much money is being lost every day. They really need to have someone to come in to work on certifications for Tinian and Rota, and have daily workshops on how to maximize both medicare and private insurance reimbursement.

If the hospital and medical centers were put up for sale, they would get multiple buyers and they would do these things immediately.

Anonymous said...

The CNMI itself needs to be nullified. The US Navy or Hawaii should take charge immediately and go back to a Trust Territory. The CNMI Government has completely failed.