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Cruz Bay
Wednesday, October 5, 2022


The territory's hospitals moved one more step toward semi-autonomy Wednesday when the Senate Rules Committee voted 4-1 to approve legislation that would allow the hospitals to manage themselves.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Allie "Allison" Petrus, chair of the Health Committee, would allow the institutions to handle their own finances, personnel and procurement.
Other sponsors of the bill are Sens. Lorraine Berry, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Anne Golden, Gregory Bennerson, Vargrave Richards, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Roosevelt David, Norman Jn. Baptiste and George Goodwin, according to the V.I. Independent.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who voted against the bill, voiced concern that while hospital employees would be hired and fired by hospital officials, they would be paid through the General Fund. He also objected to a provision that would allow the hospital to turn over the names of people who owe the hospital money to collection agencies even though the government owed the same people money.
"Someone could owe the hospital $100, but the government may owe them $5,000 in tax returns or retroactive pay," he said.
Donastorg said he wasn't against the principle of autonomy, but was drafting a couple of amendments that would satisfy his concerns.
Eugene Woods, chief executive officer of Roy L. Schneider Hospital said, "This has been a long time coming. We are extremely pleased with the support we have finally gotten for autonomy."
When asked if the hospital was in a position to financially support autonomy, Woods said, "That's why it is semi-autonomy. The government will be paying about 90 percent of our payroll."
Woods said the hospital was owed so much money by so many agencies and people it was unrealistic to expect that the hospital could totally support itself.
"For example," Woods said, "we are owed $18 million by medicaid. And then there's the (V.I.) government. If we could collect all the money owed to us we would be a lot better off. "
Woods said that semi-autonomy would allow the hospitals to establish their own priorities.
"As it stands now, we send our bills to Finance. But they have no idea what needs to be addressed first. We are the ones who understand what our most basic needs are — like blood," Woods said.
Sen. Judy Gomez, who was not in attendance, said she thought the bill was intended to be a "cure all" and wasn't convinced enough effort had been made to collect monies owed to the hospitals, according to the Daily News.
The bill will now go to the full Legislature for action.

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