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Monday, February 6, 2023


Oct. 31, 2001 — Members of the Senate Finance Committee voted to subpoena Thomas Robinson, chief executive officer of Juan F. Luis Hospital, to their next meeting after he failed to appear at Tuesday's hearing on St. Croix.
The committee chair, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, called the meeting after Robinson announced in mid-October that significant staffing and care cuts would occur at the hospital because of budget reductions. Earlier in the month, hospital officials announced that the number of beds would be reduced because of a personnel shortage. In addition, they blamed budget reductions, which they said have resulted in the elimination of about 50 positions in the last two years, for another 62 positions being cut.
Hansen was adamant that her committee did not reduce the hospital’s budget. In fact, she said, the $16.8 million appropriated for the hospital was more than had been recommended by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in his proposed Fiscal Year 2002 budget.
"Not one position for any health provider was reduced: not one physician, not one technician, not one nurse," Hansen said. "All of the positions that came down with the budget were left intact."
Under questioning, Nellon Bowry, the hospital’s chief financial officer, told senators that government funding has dropped each fiscal year since 1999. The hospital received $21.2 million that year, $18.9 million in 2000 and $16.5 in 2001. For Fiscal Year 2002, it is slated to receive $16.8 million.
Hansen blasted Robinson for not showing up at the meeting and for stating publicly earlier in the month that hospital services would be cut because of budget reductions prompted by the 24th Legislature. She said she "resented" Robinson's having "the nerve to lie and make this community feel uncomfortable."
Hansen said that before Tuesday’s hearing she had been told "off the record" by hospital officials that Robinson "would find an excuse not to attend" in order to avoid having to answer questions.
Bowry said Robinson told him Monday afternoon that he would not be able to attend the hearing because of a "personal emergency."
The committee members present voted 6-1 to subpoena Robinson to appear at their next meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.
"He couldn’t come here to prove a lie, a big lie, an unfortunate lie," Hansen said.
Dr. Dante Galiber, president of the hospital medical staff, testified that past budget cuts had hurt staffing and service at the hospital. He said a shortage of nurses has, among other things, decreased the number of elective surgeries performed and reduced the number of beds in the intensive care unit from six to five.
"It is a challenge to the physicians and nurses to provide quality health care," Galiber said. "The hospital and the government need to augment staff salaries."
Darice Plaskett, the hospital's vice president for nursing services, had said in an earlier Finance Committee hearing that there was a need for 66 registered nurses, 46 licensed practical nurses, 29 certified nursing assistants, 13 unit secretaries, two clinical care coordinators and one head nurse. She said a critical shortage of nurses on the mainland is affecting the situation in the territory, particularly when other jurisdictions can offer signing bonuses of $3,000 to $10,000.
On Tuesday, Plaskett said nursing staff shortages are taking a toll. "As a result, the staff is burned out," she said.

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