SAIPAN — The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will be hit with a daily, six-hour power disconnection if it fails to pay the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. $5 million by Aug. 6.
CHCC Board of Trustees Chairwoman Lauri Ogumoro said hospital officials are working to get the money.
She said they will meet with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands governor on Friday morning, "and hopefully, we will have more information from there."
Ogumoro added, "We may have to ask for an extension (from CUC) because we are trying to work this out and think we need to hear from the governor – like how soon they can transfer the money to us."
The CUC board on July 6 sent a letter to Ogumoro stating that the CHCC should make the payment within the next 30 days.
As of June 12, CHCC had an outstanding balance of $35,742,570.93 due to CUC for utility services.
This amount continues to grow by about $400,000 per month, CUC said.
In December 2013, CUC filed a complaint against CHCC in the CNMI Superior Court to recover an unpaid utility bill amounting to $9.6 million.
In May 2014, the court issued a temporary restraining order against CUC, saying that CHCC "would suffer immediate and irreparable injury should CUC disconnect any of CHCC's utility services as CHCC would become unable to provide critical health care and public health services."
In January 2015, the court granted the request of CHCC for injunctive relief, "and as such issues a preliminary injunction enjoining CUC from disconnecting any utility services provided to CHCC until any ... further order."
But the court also ordered CHCC to "continue to pay its current and monthly usage bills – not including late fees, interest and penalties – for the remainder of the underlying suit or until ordered by this court to do otherwise."
In October 2019, CUC Executive Director Gary Camacho discussed the outstanding balance with CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna.
Camacho reiterated the CUC concerns to CHCC in official correspondence on Dec. 20, 2019.
"However, it has become clear that CHCC has not been responsive to CUC's concerns and requests for payment of CHCC's long-standing and continuing obligations to CUC," the CUC board said in its letter to CHCC.