Territorial Hospital Board Fails to Approve Dialysis Contract

St. Croix Territorial Hospital Board members met on St. Croix, joined remotely by St. Thomas, discussing hospitals’ hurricane recovery Wednesday.
St. Croix Territorial Hospital Board members met on St. Croix, joined remotely by St. Thomas, discussing hospitals’ hurricane recovery Wednesday.

The V.I. Government Hospital and Health Facilities Corporation Board approved a procurement procedure Wednesday, but not a contract to order dialysis chairs to replace hurricane damaged equipment for the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital at their quarterly meeting on St. Croix.

The Territorial Hospital Board’s procurement procedure specifically added the management of transactions involving federal funds to a 1999 procurement procedure.

Immediately following the vote, acting board chair Vera Falu instructed chief executive officers for JFL and the Schneider Regional Medical Center to appoint procurement officers and a committee by April 15.

The second measure – approving $3.5 million to lease two trailers equipped with 24 dialysis chairs for a year – only received three ‘yes’ votes from the eight board members present at Wednesday’s quarterly meeting.

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At first, no one seconded the resolution, and then Troy de Chabert-Schuster joined the meeting and moved the item forward for a vote. Only de Chabert-Schuster, Falu and Philip Arcidi voted in favor. There were five abstentions.

After the unsuccessful vote, Valdamier Collens, V.I. Finance director, said he wanted clarification about how the contract was awarded and who evaluated the vendors. The board’s counsel, Loren Kleeger, said the JFL team, headed by JFL chief executive officer Wanda Ruben, recommended the lease to the finance committee that reviewed the two proposals. The Odulair company was selected by the finance committee and they negotiated a contract for $3.85 million. Kleeger pointed out the company is approved by the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and he drafted the lease agreement.

Ruben said the issue was discussed with FEMA and due to costs, all agreed it was better to lease than buy the dialysis chairs.

“I believe the procurement process was followed and the government is getting a good value,” Kleeger said.

Because the contract deadline is March 15, Falu said she would meet via phone throughout the day with board members Wednesday and Thursday after a secretary is appointed to augment the territorial board’s executive committee and attempt to approve the contract. If the contract is approved after March 15, FEMA will reimburse 90 percent rather than 100 percent of the cost.

“We have followed every step. If there were concerns they should have been brought forward before,” Ruben said. “These are desperately needed.”

After Hurricane Maria in September, St. Croix’s dialysis patients were evacuated to Atlanta to receive treatment and will be returned home a few at a time, the JFL board learned earlier this month.

The dialysis unit at SRMC is operational, Dr. Bernard Wheatley, CEO, told the board Wednesday.

The executive officers for both hospitals reported that their respective facilities continue to struggle with low census, inadequate staff levels and infrastructure issues after the September hurricanes. They received $10 million each in federal community disaster loans and have paid staff and the V.I. Water and Power Authority with those funds.

FEMA has inspected both facilities, but not determined whether the hospitals will be repaired or rebuilt. Wheatley reported the V.I. Government is behind on its monthly allocation and Ruben said they sent the wrong amount. The administrators also said the central government is withholding an excessive amount for utility payments.

“Revenue is 50 percent less and every day we lose a little more,” Ruben said.

Board members attending the meeting were: Falu, de Chabert -Schuster, Arcidi, Collens, Cornel Williams, Dr. Olivine Treasure, Julio Rhymer and Dr. Margaret Sprauve.

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