CHCC: Government will pay CUC $2.5M

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THE central government will make a partial payment of $2.5 million to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. so it won’t disconnect the hospital power supply for six hours daily.

In an interview, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. board chairwoman Lauri Ogumoro said the central government will transfer the money to CHCC on Wednesday.

CUC is demanding a $5 million payment from CHCC by Aug. 6.

As of June 12, 2020, CHCC had an outstanding balance of over $35 million due to CUC for utility services. The amount continues to grow by about $400,000 per month, the CUC board told Ogumoro in a letter on July 6.

On Friday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Department of Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig joined the CHCC special board meeting  in the governor’s conference room.

“We truly understand CUC’s need for funding to buy fuel,” Ogumoro told the governor, “but [CUC] has to understand…that we have to have cash to buy supplies [for medical services]…and we are all kind of tied up here.”

CHCC chief financial officer Derek Sasamoto said the hospital incurs a shortfall every year. “We have done a lot to grow resources, but the shortfall still exists,” he added.

He earlier told the House Ways and Means Committee that the hospital is a $90 million operation.

CHCC managed to increase its revenue from $30 million to $60 million, he added, but because of uncompensated care, the “huge deficit” of the hospital persists.

He noted that the cost of uncompensated care is increasing and has reached $18 million in the current fiscal year.

Sasamoto also mentioned the unfunded medical services CHCC provides to government agencies.

According to Sasamoto, more than 90% of CHCC expenditures are for hospital services.

He likewise noted that the central government owes CHCC $9.6 million in FY 2019 appropriations.

Ogumoro said the daily six-hour power disconnection “is unrealistic because…that will compromise the whole operation of the hospital, patient care and patient safety.”

CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna, for her part, said the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services or CMS — the biggest payer of the corporation — requires that the hospital have a backup generator. “We can’t use a backup generator to be the main source of power,” she added.

CHCC board members Ogumoro, Polly Masga and Edward Deleon Guerrero then called for an executive or closed door session as requested by the governor.

CUC Executive Director Gary Camacho was asked to join the meeting. 

After an hour of deliberation, an agreement was reached.

“We had a very good meeting with a positive outcome,” Ogumoro said. “Everybody’s on the same page. There is a promise from the central government to give some funding. We will get that check and we will be able to hand it over to CUC as the first installment,” she added.

She said CUC, for its part, promised to keep the power running at the hospital.



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