Healthcare privatization row in Saipan comes out in the open (4)

By Lori Lyn Lirio

(File Photo) Esther Muna Photo © saipantribune.com

THE row between the two primary health institutions in Saipan is worsening with one group now accusing the other of shutting them off from their patients.

This after Kagman Community Health Center (KCHC) board member Matthew Gregorio accused CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muña of locking them out of the KCHC building. He said the KCHC staff were locked out of the health center last April 30, and were unable to see the patients coming to the clinic.

“We have been informed that we don’t have access to the building as per order by CEO Esther Muña,” Gregorio said.

He expressed concerned that Muña’s action would stop them from giving health treatment and services to people in Kagman and other nearby villages.

“We were working today and came over and the security came over and changed the locks and the staff no longer has access to the building. As a result, we might be prevented to see patients tomorrow,” Gregorio said in a phone interview.

However, Muña denied having shutdown the center. She said the building has been closed since April 27.

“During our conversation with Dr. Katherine Elstun on April 30, 2018, we learned that the nonprofit organization is canceling clinics all week and that they will not be scheduling clinics until June 2018,” Muña, in a statement, said.

“As the medical director of KCHC, we expect that she is in the best position to understand her patients’ health needs,” Muña said.
Since May 1, KCHC is run by a private non-profit entity, the Kagman Community Health Center Inc. Under the new management system, KCHC former executive director Vince Castro will be installed as the CEO.

“For CHCC, there are certain requirements that need to be completed as the new grantee will now operate the clinic as KCHC,” board of Trustees chairwoman Lauri Ogumoro said in a statement.

CHCC, as the grantee for the KCHC clinic – which expired on April 30, 2018, is required by federal law that management controls are in place immediately after the grant expires.

“The CHCC has completed an initial physical inventory of clinic assets,” Muña said.

(File Photo) Lauri Ogomuro. Image © saipantribune

Ogumoro said the grantor Human Resources Services Administration has communicated guidance and instructions to CHCC, particularly the safeguarding of the assets to prevent loss, damage, or theft.

“In regards to the land and building, CHCC board and KCHC board will be meeting to discuss the new entity’s needs, including the AG’s opinion on what CHCC can provide to KCHC. CHCC has also met with the employees of CHCC-KCHC to discuss the change of ownership. CHCC is committed to the health of the entire CNMI and will assist in the smooth separation between CHCC and KCHC,” Ogumoro stated.

According to KCHC chairman of the board Velma Palacios and Gregorio, the meeting will take place at the CHCC. She said they will discuss with the CHCC board to move forward and work together.

“We already expressed our intention to enter a memorandum of understanding with the CHCC for some of the health services,” Palacios said.

She added that they have been reaching out to the CHCC board to set a meeting with them but it was only recently that they have responded.

Palacios and Gregorio said they will also ask the CHCC board to allow the KCHC Inc. to use the facility in Kagman.

“If they don’t, we will go for plan B which is to rent a place,” Gregorio said.

The other option is holding a clinic at Sta. Soledad church.

“The Kagman church has offered to use their facility,” he said.

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