4 May 2023

Power to hospitals in Marianas could be cut over debts

12:52 pm on 4 May 2023
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Photo: RNZ Pacific/Mark Rabago

Hospitals and health facilities in the Northern Marianas could get their power cut today if the heads of the Commonwealth Utility and the Healthcare Corporations can't reach an agreement on servicing tens of millions of dollars in overdue bills.

RNZ Pacific has received confirmation from the utilities company that today is the disconnection date stated in a notice served to the Healthcare Corporation.

As of March 31 this year the outstanding balance was $US53.6 million.

On Monday this week the board chair of the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, Janice Tenorio, rejected a proposal from Healthcare to pay $US225,000 monthly, saying it would not even cover their ongoing monthly bills which average between $US350,000 and $US400,000.

"While you shared the challenges and problems with CHCC's cash flow collections and the timing of federal reimbursements with CUC's board of directors at our meeting this afternoon, the outstanding arrears remain CHCC's obligation and only CHCC can determine what is absolutely doable to resolve the arrears and its billings going forward. CUC, on the other hand, can no longer continue to service CHCC without full payment for services already rendered in good faith," Tenorio was quoted as saying in the Marianas Variety.

CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna told the newspaper: "What we shared with the [CUC] board was not about collections but about insufficient reimbursement due to Medicaid PE expenses exceeding payment from Medicaid. So paying more than what we offered is unacceptable…. They responded that they will proceed to disconnect."

A final decision on carrying out the disconnection notice is expected later today.