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Jan 17, 2004– The government is bringing the public into the debate over the need for a privately owned ambulatory surgical care center on St. Thomas.
On Friday, Acting Health Commissioner Darlene Carty issued an invitation to the general public to serve on a nine-member ad hoc review committee to determine whether a Certificate of Need should be issued to a group of nine local doctors. The committee would comprise five consumers and four health care-related providers.
Since being announced last month, the proposed facility has been the source of heated debate. Roy L. Schneider Hospital and the doctors' group have purchased numerous full-page ads in the local print newspapers to make their viewpoints known. Representatives from both parties have also appeared on radio.
Rodney Miller, RLS chief executive director, is vehemently opposed to the project. He fears the center would drain revenue away and "undermine the mission of the hospital."
The doctors group – Byron Biscoe, Jeffrey Chase, Horace Griffith, Sonia Taylor Griffith, Francesco Isolani, Derrick Jones, Catherine Kean, Michael Savage and Adam Shapiro – deny the center would steal business away from the hospital. Instead they argue that the facility will benefit the community and complement the hospital's operations.
Earlier this month the department returned the group's application in order to receive additional information. Devin Carrington, the department's legal counsel, said there were several reasons the application was returned, the main one being that the entity in whose name the application was submitted is not incorporated in the Virgin Islands. (See "Doctors' group asked to supply additional data".)
Carty, who by law makes the final determination on whether to issue the certificate, said in a Friday release, "the purpose of the committee is to assist the department in making a determination of whether there is a need in the community for the establishment of an ambulatory surgical center on St. Thomas."
Carty said the committee will be chosen from a wide spectrum of professions, however, the selection criteria for the committee has yet to be specified. According to Carty, the completed application from the doctors' group will be made available for public review upon submission.
Persons interested in serving on the committee should contact Gabriel Benjamin at 774-0117 before Jan. 23.
The public will have another opportunity to weigh in on the debate later this month or early February. Sen. Douglas E. Canton Jr., chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, has announced plans to hold a public forum on the proposed center.

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