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HomeNewsLocal newsJFL Board Learns Senate Redirected Hospital Funds

JFL Board Learns Senate Redirected Hospital Funds

JFL Board members discuss the hospital's financial issues Thursday.
JFL Board members discuss the hospital’s financial issues Thursday.

While struggling to operate St. Croix’s only hospital, the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital board learned recently that the 32nd Legislature appropriated $3.4 million from the hospital’s capital fund at the Public Finance Authority, earmarked to repair the shattered sewer system, meet standards to become accredited by the Joint Commission and other expenses.

Although JFL faces major repairs or even demolition due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two floors are treating patients with emergency, maternity, lab, radiology and other services using a pump truck after the sewer collapsed last May.

At a meeting Thursday night, it was clear that the board and administrators do not consider JFL a lost cause. The Board expressed anger at the Legislature for seizing the funds to move Senate offices that were also damaged by the category five storms.

“I can’t stress how important those funds were to JFL,” Chief Financial Officer Deepak Bansal said.

Asked by board Chairwoman Vera Falu, Bonsal said the V.I. government is not current with its annual obligations to the hospital.

Board Treasurer Theresa Frofup-Alie said senators were “selfish” for taking money from the medical institution, and would accuse the board of being dysfunctional should the sewer system become more compromised.

“We also have dysfunctional senators,” she said. “My concern is what do we do if we have another disruption of service? Where do we get the money?”

In December, the Legislature, apparently believing the hospital will be condemned and no longer need of the funds, approved a bill to appropriate $3.5 million from the PFA fund to rent a temporary office and build a new one on St. Croix. The bill redirects money to the Senate to work on the hospital, including almost $2.5 million for the sewers, replacing the heating, cooling and ventilation system, purchasing software and a surge protector for the CT scanner and $75,000 to comply with the Joint Commission for certification.

JFL is also working to rebuild operations with a smaller community disaster loan than expected. They now expect $10 million instead of the original $22 million applied for by Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Bansal said $6.7 million has been received and is being used to pay the Government Employees Retirement System, the Internal Revenue Bureau, the Water and Power Authority, invoices for services and supplies and payroll incurred after Hurricane Irma.

The CDL cannot be used for capital improvement or expenses incurred before the storms. The federal funds will be monitored from a separate bank account.

Bansal said more money may be loaned if the government meets certain conditions, but did not disclose the conditions. V.I. Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens told the territorial board in January that the territory’s gross receipts taxes to secure the loans didn’t pass certain tests so the loan amounts were lowered.

According to Wanda Ruben, JFL chief executive officer, FEMA has not reported its assessment as to the condition of the facility – whether it needs to be repaired or rebuilt. In the meantime, JFL is racing to complete required paperwork by March 14 to be reimbursed for moving to temporary structures and the cost of the hard structures.

Ruben said three hard-structured portable operating rooms and two dialysis trailers with 12 chairs should ship in two weeks with a June or July target date to be set up and functional.

In the case of future hurricanes, the units can withstand 140 mile per hour winds and in anticipation of stronger winds can be dismantled, stored in a storm proof trailer and reassembled later.

“They will have everything to be compliant with CMS. I believe these structures are safe for our patients,” she said.

In the case of another category five, patients will be relocated and an evacuation plan is being formulated.

Originally Western Shelter tents were to be used, but they can only withstand 70 MPH winds and FEMA recommended structures made by Johnson Portables, Ruben told the board.

She also updated the board on the recent CMS survey and said the discrepancies do not constitute decertification by the federal agency that refunds for services to Medicare and Medicaid patients. One discrepancy was noted because a hospital worker did not wear booties in the operating room because his shoes were too big, according to Dr. Raymond Cintron, chief medical officer. The other citations were given for rusty equipment and because the board had not followed the correct meeting format during and after the storms.

Board members attending the meeting were Falu, Frorup-Alie, Aida Bermudez, Troy de Chabert-Schuster and Dr. Olivine Anne Treasure.

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