Privatizing health services topic of DOC hearing - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Privatizing health services topic of DOC hearing

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 by Jolene Toves

Guam - In federal court today the Department of Corrections and the federal government continued to bump heads on a scheduling agreement outlining when the local agency will be implementing the various policies for medical, dental and mental care at the prison.

And while they disagree on a timeline, in court this morning, Adelup's announcement on Tuesday of its plans to privatize DepCor's infirmary was discussed at length. Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio said, "The Department of Corrections is not about providing these ancillary but necessary services including mental, dental services or even basic health services. We'd like to have a business person come to us put the professionals together that are required to meet the standards that are needed for all the inmates and detainees that are at the Department of Corrections and offer to the Government of Guam. "

Tenorio says the idea is basically to emulate what the military does with base operations services contract where they focus on core competencies, adding that GovGuam has been spending two to $3 million a year. "It seems to me it would be better to put the liability and responsibility to the contract under a private vendor to offer the services to the Government of Guam and meet the requirements of the federal authorities," he added.

During the status hearing DOC's legal counsel Donna Lawrence expressed that the proposal to privatize health care services at DOC may be possible in 12 months. The feds responded this was the first time they'd ever heard about the government's plans for privatization.

US Assistant Attorney Jeffrey argued in court that this was just another way for the Department of Corrections to  "pass the buck for 12 months...kicking the can down the road". Tenorio says they are operating in good faith and that they want to and have to provide the services, noting, "If you look at the federal receivership throughout the government agencies its always because the government hasn't done what they're required to do I think this is a good faith effort on the part of the Government of Guam to say that we're going to allow for a private contractor to do it they're going to be paid to do it."

He stresses that the liability still belongs to GovGuam and are not passing the buck but instead assuming responsibility in an intelligent way. "Because what's going to happen now is a company is going to come in they're going to provide the services we'll be able to tax them and ultimately hold them liable for making sure that the gauze and the medical conditions and the dental conditions and the treatment that they need even mental services are there for them and all the people that need them," he said.

And while the US remained skeptical, District Court Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood stated the "issue of privatization sounds like a good idea but not sure...we will have to see if it works", adding that the privatization may change the complexion of how to do things. She did express that she was disappointed that there was no joint report stating it is prudent they come together and push the joint proposal through as "they are almost there almost done with settlement agreement" and to help things along Gatewood provided another scheduling date setting a teleconference between the parties for September 19 at 8 am allowing the US to review the counter proposal. After that both parties are to submit the joint proposal report by September 26 identifying what point they agree on and disagree on adding that she would schedule a hearing to address the disagreements.

We should note that DOC has hired four nurses as of yesterday as well as two psychological technicians and 55 DOC officers to be trained next month.
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