Thursday, June 21, 2018

State Department Could Close Overseas Puerto Rico Offices

By on January 11, 2017

SAN JUAN – Secretary of State-designate Luis Rivera Marín announced Tuesday the possibility of closing several of the government of Puerto Rico’s overseas offices—in Bogotá and Madrid, among other locations—if after evaluating their performance it is shown they are merely an expense and yield no results.

“We are evaluating them, and an office that shows unsatisfactory performance will be closed down,” Rivera Marín said during the Senate Appointments Commission’s public hearing, which was evaluating his designation as well as those of the Health and Treasury secretaries and the Police superintendent.

Secretary of State-designate Luis Rivera Marín, sitting second from right, testifies during his House confirmation hearing. (Cindy Burgos Alvarado/CB)

Secretary of State-designate Luis Rivera Marín, sitting second from right, testifies during his Senate confirmation hearing. (Cindy Burgos Alvarado/CB)

When asked by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, the secretary of State-designate confirmed that they have yet to find that overseas offices have underperformed, adding that in the case of Bogotá’s, agreements could be reached to offer bilingualism programs, something in which the government of Colombia is interested. In other cases, approaches could be made using technology rather than through the office, he said.

Health Secretary-designate Rafael Rodríguez Mercado stated during the hearing that since he will continue to practice as a neurosurgeon in the public sector, he will have to refrain from making decisions that involve the Medical Sciences Campus (RCM by its Spanish initials) where he used to be rector or on neurosurgery matters at the Medical Services Administration (ASEM by its Spanish acronym).

In addition, he confirmed that the Psychiatric Hospital lost Medicaid’s accreditation and is about to lose its Joint Commission accreditation. He also argued that the Comprehensive Cancer Center—for which more than $300 million have been invested instead of the original $150 million—does not have the accreditation of the Health Facilities Regulation and Accreditation Office (Saraf by its Spanish acronym) due to construction flaws.

On another topic, he said the bill submitted by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to reduce taxes paid by doctors would not necessarily be enough to prevent those professionals from leaving the island.

In addition to the medical malpractice law’s shortcomings, Rodríguez Mercado said that one the first problems doctors face when starting their career on the island is insurance companies’ refusal to include new professionals in their network of providers.

“Are you blaming insurers for the physicians’ exodus?” asked Rivera Schatz, who chairs the Senate Appointments Committee. The Health Secretary-designate responded affirmatively: “I am not afraid of that.”

Rivera Schatz submitted a bill (Senate Bill 27) to monitor insurer practices that directly affect patients’ integrity.

The four designates who were evaluated in Tuesday’s public hearing are expected to be confirmed by the Senate in Thursday’s session.


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