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Saturday, July 20, 2024


July 30, 2002 – Juan F. Luis Hospital needs $20 million more than the $20.8 million that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has asked the Senate to approve in the Fiscal Year 2003 budget, the hospital's chief executive officer, Thomas Robinson, told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
"We need the investment to be the best health-care facility we can be," Robinson said.
The hospital's chief financial officer, Nellon Bowry, had blunter comments. "Our fiscal crisis is here, and our operational crisis is just around the corner," he said. If the funding is not forthcoming, he said, "We will have to reduce the scope of our services and erode the quality of life."
The proposed Juan F. Luis budget, to come from the General Fund, is all to pay for salaries. As quasi-independent agencies, The Luis and Roy L. Schneider Hospitals are to cover their other expenses through revenues. For Schneider Hospital, including the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center in St. John, Turnbull's proposed budget is $24.2 million.
At Tuesday's hearing, Robinson ticked off 134 positions on his wish-to-hire list, including 73 nurses. He said that if 25 of the kind of people he needs showed up willing to work, he couldn't hire them, because the hospital can't afford them. He also said that he needs $40,000 for basic neurological equipment and $1 million for other kinds of equipment.
Bowry, who in the preceding administration was director of the Office of Management and Budget, which controls the public purse strings, said vendors are threatening to stop providing goods and services because Luis Hospital is having difficulty paying them.
Nor is the hospital paying its doctors what they want. Physician salaries are at the level negotiated in 1992. Dr. Michael Potts, who heads the physicians' organization at the hospital, said it would take $114 million to put the hospital's 49 doctors on their appropriate payroll steps.
However, that would only bring them up to the contract negotiated in 1992. A later contract is mired in legal proceedings, and another new contract is scheduled for negotiation in October, Robinson said.
When the question of board certification came up, Potts said about 30 of the hospital's doctors are board certified. However, Medical Director Claudius Henry said that all doctors hired in the last few years were board certified.
The committee also heard from Health Commissioner Mavis Matthew, who was there with staff associates to defend the proposed budget of $27.2 million from the General Fund. The department also would get $2.8 million from the Health Revolving Fund and $23.4 million from the federal government, for a total of $53.4 million.
Matthew said Health Department doctors, too, are working at salary levels set in the early 1990s.
While questions posed to Matthew covered a wide variety of topics, several senators alluded to a controversy involving Dr. Herbert Saunders, head of Emergency Medical Services. Several senators suggested that he treats his staff improperly. "Dr. Saunders is totally out of control. We have got to get that albatross off our back," Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. said.
Saunders was not at the hearing, although Matthew said she had instructed him to be there. She said his relationship with the department is under legal review and that she would take appropriate action.
Matthew came under fire from Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Finance Committee chair, for the Health Department's dealings with an overtime situation at the Frederiksted Health Center. The department negotiated with the center workers to give them compensatory time. "Our policy is that these people are to be paid," Hansen countered.
When Rodney Miller, chief executive at Schneider Hospital, had his turn before the committee, the development of an oncology, or cancer treatment, department at the hospital was among the chief topics of discussion.
Miller said the hospital has money from the Tobacco Fund, which receives annual infusions from the national tobacco settlement, to set up the cancer center infrastructure. But he said it needs $1.7 million from another source to fund its operation. "That $1.7 million will come," Sen. Carlton Dowe promised.
Hansen said that while the extra $20 million requested by Robinson for Juan F. Luis was not possible, Miller's bid for another $1.7 million for the cancer center was in the realm of possibility.
All committee members were present — Sens. Douglas Canton Jr., Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Dowe, Hansen, Norman Jn Baptiste and Norma Pickard-Samuel. White, a non-member, also was present.

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