03 May 2012
- By Emmanuel T. Erediano - Reporter
COMMONWEALTH Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta yesterday told House members that he opposes the bill that gives the CHC board governing power.Babauta, a former governor, arrived in the House chamber shortly after it passed Senate Bill 17-80.
Under Public Law 16-51, the board is only an advisory body only whose members are appointed by the governor with consent of the Senate.
The passage of S.B. 17-80 was promised by House conferees to their Senate counterparts who, in turn, passed House Bill 17-278, which allows the Marianas Public Land Trust to provide CHC with a $7 million line of credit.
Babauta thanked the House and the Senate, especially the bicameral conference committee, for passing H.B. 17-278, saying it’s very critical to have that line of credit from MPLT.
But he said he will ask the governor to veto S.B. 17-80.
Authored by Sen. Ralph DLG Torres, R-Saipan, the bill will require the CEO to “refer to the board for decision on all matters involving allocation of the funds of the corporation….”
The measure mandates CHC to provide “at all times” inter-island medical referral services, including full airfare and other transportation cost for patients from Tinian and Rota.
In an interview, CHC’s Public Health Division Director Roxanne Diaz said there are pros and cons in having a governing body, but giving decision-making power to a board whose members don’t have enough background in running a healthcare system worries her.
“Not knowing those dynamics can really jeopardize CHC. That is the major con,” she added.
If S.B. 17-80 becomes law, Diaz said people should question who would make up the governing board, “because God forbid, if the governing board is made up of members who don’t have the background necessary to make those critical decisions, people’s lives will be at great risk.