CHRISTIANSTED — Citing potential conflicts of interest and a need for a more comprehensive approach, Governor Kenneth Mapp has vetoed a bill mandating that the Director of the Office of Management & Budget and the Commissioner of Health serve as the chairpersons of the Virgin Islands Government Hospitals and Health Facilities Corporation and the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center.
“More work is needed to revolutionize the way the territory’s hospitals are administered and optimize the federal funding available for the rebuilding of the hospitals than simply substituting cabinet members as chairpersons to the hospital board,” Mapp wrote in his Tuesday message to Senate President Myron Jackson.
Mapp said that the Department of Health, through its commissioner, has oversight of the hospitals and the commissioner cannot set policy and oversee operations for Juan Luis Hospital while serving as its regulatory authority.
“How will objectivity be maintained in executing the required roles of the Commissioner of Health and that of the chairperson of the St. Croix District Board?” the Ggovernor asked.
Mapp also regarded Bill 32-0209’s sole focus on the rebuilding of only one of the Territory’s hospitals as problematic.
“It is imperative that we take a holistic approach to both hospitals,” the governor wrote. “I will soon be submitting legislation to consolidate the hospital boards. Having three boards overseeing the administration of the Territory’s hospitals is counter-productive and inefficient. We must develop a model for oversight of the hospitals during the hurricane recovery and beyond while at the same time developing the healthcare model for the Virgin Islands to meet the needs of our residents across the continuum of care. Our residents and visitors deserve state-of-the-art health care facilities and hospitals.”
The governor also acted to approve a Coastal Zone Management permit to allow Limetree Bay Terminals to expand its operations with the construction of a single point mooring system just offshore to assist larger vessels in transferring crude oil to and from the facility.
Limetree Bay’s representatives previously testified that they were ready to begin construction immediately upon approval of the CZM permit. The construction phase, they said, will result in new employment for laborers, concrete workers, welders, inspectors and painters. More than 800 people are currently working at the site.