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CHCC may lose CMS eligibility

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THE Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. may lose its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services certification if the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. disconnects the  lone CNMI hospital from the CUC power grid six hours every day,  CHCC board chair Lauri Ogumoro said.

CMS is the largest funding source of CHCC as 57% of all the healthcare corporation revenues comes from the federal agency, Ogumoro stated in her July 27 letter to the CUC board.

“Remaining eligible for that revenue is dependent upon compliance with an exceedingly long and detailed list of specific rules and standards, including rules for emergency utilities under the Life Safety Code,” she added. “Hospitals that provide critical care, like CHCC, are required to have generators that can power their essential functions as a backup should power become interrupted.”

Ogumoro said, “Failure to meet the CMS requirement of having redundant power and water systems puts CHCC at risk of losing eligibility to receive revenue from Medicaid or Medicare.”

Saying that  the unpaid utility bills of CHCC now amount to $35 million, the CUC board approved a daily, six-hour power disconnection starting Sept. 8, 2020.

CUC noted that CHCC has the infrastructure to self-generate power for the entire hospital.

But Ogumoro said CHCC cannot operate its generators under long-term emergency conditions.

She said critical patient care services will be greatly impacted as the generator is not capable of powering the facility at its full capacity, including the operating rooms, the CT scanning equipment, and the level 3 laboratory.

“CHCC’s generators sometimes have a lag time before they kick in, and the few seconds equipment goes down can trigger a long reboot, which puts patients at risk if they are dependent on a constantly running machine.”

Ogumoro said patient care in the Hemodialysis Unit is also at risk if there is an issue with the generators as there is no backup generator for that building.

“The services provided and equipment in these areas are sensitive to power fluctuations, including laboratory equipment that is essential for Covid-19 testing,” Ogumoro said.

She added that air conditioning system may likewise break due to the daily power interruption. And this may lead to infection control issues. “Air temperature and humidity will increase within the facility causing risk of bacteria and mold growth.”

Running the three generators necessary to power the hospital facility for six hours daily would cost CHCC approximately $317,000 per month, she said.

“The potential 25% reduction in consumption by CHCC that the CUC board and management hope to see by implementing a six-hour power disconnection policy would not only put CHCC’s revenue generating capability at severe risk, but the cost to CHCC for six-hour power generation per day would be nearly three times higher than the rates charged by CUC. It is pushing the CHCC even further away from the ability to meet its obligations to  CUC,” Ogumoro said.

During the budget hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs on Tuesday, CHCC chief financial officer Derek Sasamoto said CHCC owes CUC about $23 million in accumulated utility bills, some of which are over 10 years old. “It reached  $35 million because of the massive amount of penalties, which is almost 50% of the principal,” he added.

CHCC has said that due to lack of funding, it has to choose between paying CUC and providing care to  patients.

 

 

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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