September 21, 2012
My interpretation of a state of emergency differs from that of the governor. I see a state of emergency as a temporary status caused by unforeseen circumstances, for example a storm, unexpected broken equipment, etc. During the declared state enough resources and time would be devoted to correct deficiencies so the state could be lifted.
In the CNMI, however, the state is declared not to correct failures or deficiencies, but to give the governor the power to manipulate the department or agency over which the emergency has been declared. It is used to give the governor sole power to make decisions and cut others out of the process. In the CNMI the "state of emergency" or the serious problems within an agency or department are not caused by some outside unforeseen forces, but are self-inflicted.
This week Governor Fitial declared "states of emergency" for both the CUC and CHC through executives orders. In both cases the problems were caused by failed leadership. The emergencies at CHC were caused by CNMI officials who failed to properly fund CHC and by the CHC administration who failed to establish a working billing system and properly oversee operations. These failures are responsible for the fact that the institution cannot replace old or broken equipment, cannot pay vendors and get needed supplies, cannot meet payroll on time, and cannot effectively serve the community as the only hospital. This was a deliberate, predictable and self-created emergency.
For the second time in a week the U.S. Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Region IX imposed Immediate Jeopardy status for the CHC. This time it was for having no quality control in the laboratory, no effective tracking system for samples brought to the Diagnostic Laboratory System (DLS), and no process for disposing of lab specimens. The shoddy work compromised the health of two patients, according to the inspection.
It was reported that inspectors are at the CHC for perhaps a week more. That will give them plenty of time to check other deficiencies that frustrated personnel have made public through the press over the last few months. The have complained about the lack of drugs and essential supplies, broken equipment and improper Medicare and Medicaid billing.
As for CUC, it seems that the struggling power company is crippled by the failure of the central government to pay their bills, including a few million owed by PSS, a few more by the hospital on and and on. Again, this is a self-inflicted emergency. In the case of the CUC, it seems that a backdoor deals play a role in determining the emergency. Since the governor is being sued for the shadowy, secret $190 million power plant scheme, perhaps it serves him well to be able to control this corporation too. No problem, just declare an emergency.
Because the governor is the puppet master of the majority of the House members, his executive orders cannot be challenged. It should be obvious after years and years of declared emergencies for these same agencies that the emergency state is used to control and dictate. Clearly, the governor is incapable of using these emergency orders to correct problems, but uses them only to control and extend them.