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    Sunday, October 21, 2018-9:55:52A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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OPINION | Just the facts

I WOULD like to respond and share facts about Fermina Camacho’s’ “Behind the Scenes” opinion piece in Tuesday’s paper.

First of all, it is a very heated political season and politics is getting in the way of the truth and some are saying things just to cause confusion, especially in San Diego, CA.

Issue #1:

According to Fermina Camacho, she stated that patients saw a registered van under David Atalig’s personal name…and assumed the CNMI government purchased the vehicle for the Medical Referral Program.

That is far from the truth. First of all, neither the CNMI government nor the Marianas Medical Referral Services purchased any vehicle or passenger van for the Medical Referral Program in San Diego. The passenger van is not registered under my name but under Marianas Connection, a San Diego-based company established in 2016. This year in 2018, Marianas Connection entered into a contract agreement with the Medical Referral Services or MRS for transportation and logistic support to cater to MRS’s medical referral patients in San Diego, CA.

Issue #2:

Patients not receiving ample services in San Diego.

Again, far from the truth. Patients and their escorts go through an orientation and sign an agreement before leaving Saipan. When they arrive in San Diego, we pick them up and ensure they are briefed about San Diego, our services and about Ronald McDonald Charities House of San Diego where they stay and what to expect. We help them get checked in, and, again, they are briefed of the rules and regulations of Ronald McDonald House, as well as the services they offer our patients and their family. We share with them our contact information and encourage them to call at any time should they need anything while in San Diego. We take them to the stores at least once a week, if not more, and prioritized taking them to appointments outside of the Medical Campus (which houses the Rady Children’s Hospital and Sharp Memorial Hospital). We are always in contact with our CNMI patients and we go out of our way to make sure they are taken care of.

Keep in mind that 97 percent of the referred patients to San Diego are pediatric (children) patients that are seen at Rady Children’s Hospital and are housed at the Ronald McDonald Charities House of San Diego where they are many essential services. All of the services offered at Ronald McDonald House are free and a privilege for our patients. Some of the services offered are three full meals per day and 24 hour access to the full kitchen with pantries full of food where they can prepare their own meals. They even provide free haircuts and massages and have free laundry facilities. Everything is provided for. If children are of school age, they can avail themselves of free education and they coordinate with PSS so they are not behind in their school work. In fact, they provide entertainment most evenings and are given free tours of San Diego tourist spots if they sign up for it. In addition to our services transporting them to the stores, Ronald McDonald  House offers free rides to Walmart every week. Our CNMI patients are treated very well and service is first class.

Issue #3:

Concerns about Atalig’s contract and RFP.

In the past, the late Mr. Francisco Norita and a few other CNMI residents were only volunteering their time in assisting our CNMI patients and family escorts when there would be only about one, two or three patients coming to San Diego’s Rady hospital. In the last year or so, the number of patients has grown significantly in San Diego and we served up to 18 patients this past summer. Since Frank and others were only volunteering their time, CNMI referred patients and their family escorts were not picked up at the airport and were left stranded and had to spend so much for a taxi.

It was because of this that MRS asked if Marianas Connection could serve the patients while an RFP was being issued. MRS advertised in the San Diego Union Tribune Newspaper for three consecutive weeks with only Marianas Connection expressing interest. See link of RFP advertisement on page 35: http://enewspaper.sandiegouniontribune.com/infinity/sdut/default.aspx?pubid=ee84df93-f3c1-

463c-a82f-1ab095a198ca&edid=0d695c07-2278-4e07-9358-f8f2568e3e90

In addition, Marianas Connection ensures we have wheelchairs for our patients, car seats and booster seats for our children patients. Marianas Connection is covered with a liability insurance up to one million dollars to ensure our patients are covered while transporting them. These are all costs paid by the company and not passed on to the CNMI government.

Issue #4:

Atalig calls Uber or Lyft when there is a passenger van available….

Under the agreement, Marianas Connection is responsible to provide its own vehicles and provide transportation to our CNMI patients. Again, the CNMI did not purchase the passenger van, Marianas Connection did. Also, as a priority, we transport patients to and from appointments and we take patients to and from the stores or the pharmacy to pick up medication. On one or two occasions, when we were very busy servicing as many as 18 patients, Marianas Connection ensured patients were picked up and not inconvenienced to wait for 30-60 minutes for a ride. This was done through Lyft or Uber the costs for which were paid by Marianas Connection and not the patients. Also, please be aware that Marianas Connection has arranged for other medical transportation companies and ambulatory transportation services for our CNMI patients should the need arises.

Issue #5:

Travel to Saipan a few months ago paid for by the CNMI government.

Again, far from the truth. A few months ago would be June/July. Well, the last time I went to Saipan was last December 2017 and all paid personally by myself and not by the CNMI government. My trip was a personal trip and was planned two years prior for a family reunion and to visit our parents. In fact, Marianas Connection did not even have a contract with the Medical Referral Services until later in 2018.

Issue #6:

Finally, about the Babauta-Sablan gathering in San Diego and people wanting to see them.

If I am not mistaken, former Governor Babauta and Senator Manglona went to visit the patients at the Ronald McDonald House. After their visit, Senator Paul called me asking if I could assist in transporting the patients to their political function. At no time did any patients inquire about transportation to the Babauta-Sablan gathering. Supporters of the Babauta Sablan camp did not offer to pick up patients nor did they coordinate transportation if patients wanted to go. In fact, it was Senator Paul calling me to ask  me to provide transportation. I did say that we did not have it scheduled but I would check on our drivers if they were available to take them. This was only a few hours before their event. Again, it is not the responsibility of Marianas Connection to take patients to political events. If any of patients expressed interest and requested transportation, we would have scheduled it. However, to my knowledge, no one called or inquired about the event.

Thank you for the opportunity to share the facts and I welcome anyone that has any concerns regarding the Medical Referral Services in San Diego to contact Ron Sablan, the director of MRS, the Marianas Hawaii Medical Liaison Office or myself.

God Bless.

David Atalig is president of Marianas Connection in San Diego, California.