SAIPAN — The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. have signed a payment agreement regarding the hospital's utility bills, Gov. Ralph Torres said during a briefing on Friday morning.

Torres said the hospital's monthly cost for utilities has been addressed, but negotiations will continue to address the arrears, including the late fees and penalty.

He said he and the attorney general met with the board members of the two autonomous public corporations on Thursday.

"We did come to an agreement to make sure that payments will be made," Torres said. "We have addressed the current monthly payment."

Under the agreement, the central government will help CHCC pay CUC $219,000 before the 8th of each month.

Of this amount, $150,000 will be remitted by the central government, the governor said.

"The unpaid obligations underscore the importance of continuing to work with the governor and the Legislature," CHCC stated on Facebook. "The CHCC needs appropriations. Without it, we continue to operate in an underfunded environment."

The latest agreement, CHCC added, will allow both public corporations to move forward.

"While it is unusual for the sole hospital to be subjected to disconnection, and while the agreement does not remove the possibility of disconnections completely, the negotiations concluded have led to assurances of avoiding this unfortunate act, especially during a pandemic," CHCC stated.

CUC said CHCC owes about $34 million, but CHCC said this amount includes penalties that have accumulated over the years.

On Tuesday last week, CUC disconnected the hospital from its power grid for six hours. This forced CHCC to cancel surgeries scheduled between noon and 6 p.m.

CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna said one of their generators was not working.

Reduced obligation

CUC noted that the new agreement reduces the monthly obligation of CHCC from $250,000 to $219,000.

The payments will be applicable to current CHCC monthly bills, CUC said, adding that the payment in September covers the monthly bill for August.

Under the new agreement, the payment will remain at a minimum of $219,000 per month unless there is an increase in CHCC's consumption or a rate increase.