CNMI Governor Accepts Termination Of CHC’s Babauta

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Board chairman: CHC can now move on from ‘sad chapter’

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 25, 2013) – It's official: Juan N. Babauta will be out as CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHC) come Monday after Northern Marianas Governor Eloy S. Inos concurred yesterday with the corporation board's recommendation to terminate Babauta's contract.

Babauta's employment contract was set to expire on July 9. The board, which has been vocal in its dissatisfaction with his performance, voted for his contract's non-renewal. That later turned into immediate termination, effective seven days after the governor's acceptance.

The governor's much-awaited decision came down yesterday afternoon when Inos terminated Babauta's contract effective Monday, April 29. He instructed Babauta to meet with interim CEO Esther Muña for a smooth and orderly transition of the CEO's functions.

Inos received on April 22 the corporation board resolution pertaining to the termination of Babauta's contract.

According to Inos, the law requires him to accept the board's recommendation regarding the removal of the CEO.

"This letter serves to effectuate the recommendation. As I received the board's resolution on April 22, your employment is terminated effective April 29, 2013. So as to avoid any interruption in delivery of healthcare services to the residents of the CNMI, I ask that you meet with [Muña] to ensure there's a smooth and orderly transition," stated the governor's letter to Babauta yesterday afternoon.

Babauta refused to comment when contacted yesterday, saying he has yet to receive the governor's letter.

CHCC board chair Joaquin Torres admitted to having "mixed emotions" upon learning of the governor's decision. He said he is both sad and disappointed that Babauta, of whom he had such high hopes, turned out to be otherwise.

However, he said the corporation can now heave a sigh of relief because it just closed a sad chapter and can now move forward under a new leadership.

The board is scheduled to meet today with Inos and Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider on host of issues, including the recruitment of a new CEO, the hospital's plan of correction for the concerns cited by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the corporation's funding needs for fiscal year 2014, and the technical assistance of the Office of Insular Affairs, among others.

Torres said the board will also recommend to Inos that Muña be paid $96,000 per annum as interim CEO-the same salary that Babauta was getting.

Muña is the corporation's COO and chief financial officer and currently receives $85,000.

Torres said the board is confident that Muna can do a better job than her predecessor.

Saipan Tribune learned that Muña has been with the public hospital for 20 years now in various capacities.

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