SAIPAN — Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna on Monday said CHCC needs adequate funding for the services it provides, which will soon include the medical referral program.

Reacting to the opinion issued last week by Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Attorney General Edward Manibusan, Muna said it's still not clear when exactly CHCC will begin managing the medical referral program.

"We need to have a formal transition of its operations as well as adequate funding for services and operations," she added.

In a legal opinion, the attorney general told CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres that the medical referral program's transfer from CHCC to the governor's office was done without legal authority.

Special assistant to the administration Mathilda "Keko" Rosario earlier told the CNMI House Ways and Means Committee that the transfer of the medical referral program to the governor's office during the administration of then-Gov. Eloy Inos "was supposedly on a temporary basis" to help the program go through its financial woes at the time. 

In his letter to the governor last week, Manibusan recommended the enactment of a law authorizing the medical referral service office to operate under the executive branch, particularly in the governor's office.

Manibusan said, without this legal authorization, the governor's office will have to "cease processing matters pertaining to the program."

Last year, CHCC officials told lawmakers that the medical referral program was funded with about $3 million each year, "so every year there's a deficit of $17 million or more."

CHCC officials said transferring the medical referral program to the health care corporation would be "another mountain we have to climb."

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