MARSHALL ISLANDS HEALTH MINISTER KIJINER TERMINATES CONTRACT OF MERCY

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INTERNATIONAL

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (November 12, 1999 – Marshall Islands Journal)---177 Health Care Program manager Mercy International Health Services is being terminated three months before the end of its contract.

Health Minister Tom Kijiner notified Mercy last week that "the leadership of the four atolls and myself are not satisfied with the quality of health care provided by the MIHS," and said the contract will be terminated December 31.

Mercy’s current contract is set to expire on March 31, 2000.

MIHS director Patricia C. Williams, who is based in Michigan, urged Kijiner to allow the contract to continue until March to allow time for an orderly transition that won't interrupt patient services. "Given our past experience, we believe that it is necessary to plan for a minimum of three months in order to identify and mobilize a new contractor," she said in a letter to the Minister last Thursday.

Kijiner criticized Mercy for spending about $500,00 on administration, expenditures that have been increasing since 1988, thereby reducing the funds available for health services to the program recipients. But Mercy officials say they've actually come in under budget on administration expenses.

He also said that the 177 Health Care Program did not have doctors for a three month period in mid-1999 as a result of Mercy’s chief administrator terminating doctors and staff "with the full knowledge that recruitment of new personnel to fill those positions takes a couple of months." Prior planning could have avoided this problem, he said, adding that "the chief administrator made personnel changes on numerous occasions without informing my office."

Kijiner said that a bid advertisement will be published in local and Hawai‘i papers soon, and indicated his interest to receive "a new and improved proposal from your firm."

The letter from MIHS director Williams said that after researching budget matters, she found that the 177 Health Care Program came in $34,808 below the planned budget for administrative expenses for the year in question.

Williams believes that if the contract continues through March, it would save RMI money and insure that patient services—such as outer island doctor visits—would not be cancelled, as happened two years ago when Mercy’s contract was terminated. "Allowing MIHS to transition operations to a new contractor versus closing down the clinic allows for an orientation period and continuation versus ‘re-start,’ which is much less efficient and more costly," she said.

Kijiner first notified Mercy of his intent to fire the 177 manager in an August 24 letter. That decision, he said, was based on Mercy breaching the contract by its "failure to provide two physicians since the beginning of May 1999, thereby denying patients… access to proper medical care."

Williams said in September that "an explanation of the events that led to a gap in physician coverage is insufficient and wish to assure you that the situation has since been corrected and will not occur again."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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