The Commonwealth Health Care Corporation board retains Esther Muña as CEO

By Lori Lyn Lirio

Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation Chief Executive Officer Esther Muña

THE Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation Board of Trustees reaffirmed Esther Muña as their chief executive officer.

The board convened on the evening of May 24 at the CHCC conference room for a special board meeting, the agenda of which was to evaluate and vote on competence of Muña.

The board members – Chair Lauri Ogumoro, Dave Rosario and William Cing (via phone patch) voted yes while Leticia Reyes, saying she does not believe in the CEO’s performance, voted no. Another board member, Larry Hocog, is not present.

In an interview, Ogumoro said they used the American Association CEO evaluation tool as basis for their examination of Muña’s performance.

“Her score, based on the evaluation tool, says that she meets most of the expectations.”

It was the first for the members of the board, who were all appointment by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in 2017, to evaluate their CEO.

“It is an annual process. This sets a foundation for it,” Ogumoro said.

“Most of us agree that the CEO is working very hard, but there is always room for improvement,” the board chair said.

“Our job now is to put together areas that we see that she can improve and work with her deficiencies,” Ogumoro said, adding that Muña has overwhelming support from her staff.

“The challenges she has are great – running the hospital with minimal financial support that she gets and overwhelming uncompensated care cost,” she said.

Ogumoro noted that Muña has accomplished so much for the hospital.

“She has strength, she has weaknesses. Just like all of us. I’m sure she can constructive criticism so she can raise her score from evaluation to even greater.”

Before the board convened for executive session, they gave the floor for public comment. Most people who attended the meeting were doctors and hospital staff.

Dr. John Doyle, internal medicine physician, said he witnessed how the hospital has improved under Muña’s leadership.

“When I first got here, five years ago, there were only three of us in medicine department.

“The hospital has gone for being as what everyone perceived as bandage station to fully functional hospital.”

“We don’t have specialist here, we never will. This island can’t afford it. But we can take very complicated patients on a daily basis. We have a fully functioning ICU,” he said, adding that these occurred under Muña’s leadership.

“The fact of the matter is she has done it without the money.”

Doyle said believed that Muña deserves to get credit for what she has done in the hospital.

“What she gets is controversy. The legislature won’t give us any funding and she can’t get something done because she doesn’t have the money. That is not in her control,” he said.

“I cannot picture anybody that could have done what she did. I’m truly amazed by it. I think it is time to recognize what she has done for the hospital,” he added.

Dr. Philip A. Dauterman noted that Muña inherited a hospital that was in horrible condition.

“She managed to turn the hospital around – 180 degrees turn around from 2013,” he said.

Before voting for Muña’s evaluation, Hospital Services director Jesse Tudela appealed to the board to acknowledge Muña’s performance and do it with due diligence.

He was confident with Muña’s performance but said her weakness might be in the financial system.

“The hospital needs to have a new tool for financial system. I would like to add to look of what tools she would need as a leader. Please don’t forget that when it comes to the weakness, she probably does not have the tools – one in particular is JD Edwards financial system,” he said.

In an email to this writer, Muña said she was grateful for the trust and confidence given her to continue her work at the CHCC and helping the CNMI community.

“I look forward to receiving the feedback of my performance and I will certainly be proactive in improving them,” said Muña, who is in the Philippines.

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