Government Welcomes Assessment Of CNMI Hospital

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Performance management contract to follow

By Emmanuel T. Erediano & Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 21, 2012) – Governor Benigno R. Fitial says once HealthTech completes its assessment of the Northern Marianas’ only hospital he will issue a request for proposal for a performance management contract.

This will pave the way for a private contractor to take over the management of the cash-strapped Commonwealth Health Center (CHC).

The ongoing assessment of the hospital is an initiative supported by the Department of the Interior which provided $170,000 to make it possible.

Three months ago, CHC chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta, hospital administrator Karen Buettner, Fitial’s legal counsel Jim Stump and consultant for Medicaid Esther Muna picked HealthTech to conduct the assessment of the hospital.

Over the last two months, HealthTech has been assessing CHC’s personnel, operation and financial state.

According to Fitial, "We need this because we really don’t know what CHC lacks. So this study will reveal what CHC needs that they don’t have so we can have it right."

He added, "I met with two people from HealthTech and I like their style — they are very straight forward."

Fitial expressed hope that the CHC will improve when the performance management contract is implemented.

In a separate interview, Babauta said the assessment is expected to be out in two or three weeks.

He said four HealthTech personnel were on island to gather data.

"They collected information for the last three to four weeks, almost a month now," he added.

The team met with the medical, nursing, administrative and support services staff of the hospital in the course of their data gathering.

The Health Tech staffers, Babauta said, left the island last week.

HealthTech will submit a comprehensive report to the governor’s office, he added.

"The governor will look at what the recommendations are and where do we go from there," he said.

Last June 26, Fitial received the $170,000 grant for a healthcare system analysis project from Office of Insular Affairs Director Nikulao Pula.

The grant will allow the CNMI to conduct an efficiency assessment of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to evaluate its existing business structure, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and develop a corrective action plan for implementation.

The hospital, which used to operate with a $38 million budget, now gets $5 million only from the government.

Early this year, the governor indicated that a Philippine hospital, The Medical City, would assess the viability of privatizing CHC, but negotiations broke down after TMC reportedly asked for a fee of at least $200,000.

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