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ST. CROIX— Senator Nereida Rivera-O-Reilly chaired her first committee hearing on Friday when the Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services met in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix where testimonies were given by the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center (JFLHMC) officials regarding CMS certification.

In her testimony, Aracelis Bermudez Walcott, Chairperson of the Governing Board of Directors JFLHMC, said the hospital has to continue to be reconstructed, arranged, and maintained to continue to ensure the safety of the patients, visitors and its employees. She added that she would like to see partnerships with other off-island hospitals for specialty areas such as neonatology, infectious disease and neurosurgeries.

Richard Evangelista, Acting Chief Executive Officer said the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a 12-page statement of deficiencies they found with JFLHMC regarding the physical environment. According to the CEO, CMS called for a plan of corrections to address their findings which he said mainly stemmed from issues related the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

The CEO told committee members that the hospital sent CMS on January 9, 2017, a revised plan of correction to address their concerns and a number of attachments that provide evidence of the steps taken to address the cited deficiencies. He added that the hospital believes the document submitted will ensure compliance as the hospital undertakes long-term capital projects to upgrade the hospital’s physical environment.

Speaking specifically regarding correcting the deficiencies, Evangelista pointed out that a request for proposal was sent out on January 27, 2017 to qualified architectural and engineering firms to provide professional services relating to planning, development, design and construction of a new HVAC infrastructure, roofing and electrical upgrades and repairs to associated systems within the healthcare facility.

The Chief Financial Officer, Tim Lessing, faced several questions from committee members including the resignation of the Acting Chief Financial Officer, Michael Younger. He told the committee that Younger was not fired; but resigned for personal reasons.

The JFLHMC officials were told that they were micro-managing the hospital which poses a problem in regards to its proper functioning and that the Governing Board was part and parcel to the many problems JFLHMC is facing today, specifically their pettiness and back-stabbing.

Both the Chairwoman, Senator Rivera O’Reilly and Senator Kurt Vialet spoke of the possibility of abolishing the District Boards by transferring all of its functions to the Territorial Board.

Committee members at Friday’s hearing were Senators Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Janette Millin Young, Sammuel Sanes, Dwayne DeGraff and Novelle Francis, Jr. Non-Committee member was Senator Alicia Hansen.