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Carty Approves Ambulatory Surgical Center

Nov. 27, 2004 – Health Commissioner Darlene Carty announced Friday evening a Certificate of Need has been issued for a privately owned ambulatory surgical center on St. Thomas.
Her announcement comes on the heels of months of anxiety and speculation over the project.
Since being announced in December 2003, the proposed facility was the source of heated debate. Earlier this year both sides – Rodney Miller, Roy L. Schneider Hospital chief executive officer, and the group of local doctors proposing the center – took out full-page ads in the print newspapers, vigorously defending their views. Both factions also appeared on numerous radio shows.
An ad hoc committee was formed in July to compile information about the proposal and make a recommendation to Carty. Though a copy of the committee's Oct. 15 report was circulated through the media, neither Roy L. Schneider Hospital officials nor Dr. Byron Biscoe, chairman of the Ambulatory Surgical Center committee, had yet received an official copy of the document. Therefore, neither would make an official comment on the committee's decision. (See "Ambulatory Surgical Center Passes First Hurdle" ).
As of early this week, neither side had yet received a copy of the document. Neither Miller nor Biscoe could be reached for comment Saturday.
Amos Carty, RLS chief legal counsel, said Saturday, "Obviously, I'm disappointed with what I understand the decision to be. I haven't seen the documentation containing the approval." Carty said he would defer to Miller for official comment.
Miller is vehemently opposed to the project. He has expressed fears the center would drain revenue away and "undermine the mission of the hospital."
The doctors' group – Biscoe, Horace Griffith, Sonia Taylor Griffith, Derrick Jones, Catherine Kean and Michael Savage – instead argue that the facility will benefit the community and complement the hospital's operations. The original group of nine is now down to six – Drs. Adam Shapiro and Jeffery Chase have dropped out, and Francesco Isolani moved off-island.
Carty, according to a release from Government House, said she "acted in consideration of the assessment based on available information and data, and after a favorable recommendation by an advisory panel appointed to review the application."
Carty listed the conditions under which the applicant must abide:
– Provide assurance that the proposed facility and its professional staff will accept Medicare and Medicaid.
– Submit periodic reports in the form established by the Department of Health.
– Submit an acceptable emergency plan which includes membrane of agreement with RLS Hospital, the V.I. Department of Health Emergency Medical Services and other ambulance services.
– Execute a written transfer agreement with RLS Hospital or provide assurances that their physicians will have admitting privileges at RLS Hospital.
– Submit a nurse availability and recruitment plan.
– Provide assurance that the proposed sponsors will cooperate with the University of the Virgin Islands in making the proposed facility available for the training of UVI students, particularly, nursing, social work and business education students.
– Submit assurance that the proposed facility is being designed and constructed with the objective of meeting all applicable federal and local government code requirements.
– Submit character references for the manager and members of the facility.
The release said, "Once the commissioner settled on a decision, all interested parties were notified." However, Amos Carty said he is not aware that the hospital has received any official notification.
The commissioner concluded that any changes to the project, such as the number of beds, room sizes or services, must be reported to her office for modification of the CON.
Earlier in the week, Biscoe had said the group "expects about a two-year period of construction, recruitment and training of staff, and acquisition of equipment." He said the group wants to be open "within 18-24 months." Biscoe said he would be "delighted" to talk further about the project, but not until when and if he had an official notification of the commissioner's approval.
Meantime, the Source learned that last month Amos Carty had tried to obtain from the commissioner the minutes of the committee. Commissioner Carty refused to make those minutes public. In an Oct. 6 letter to Amos Carty, the commissioner said her legal counsel had advised her to deny his request.
She said she was advised that deliberations of the ad hoc committee are "similar to that of an executive committee of the Committee of the Commissioner of Health … and not subject to the V.I. Sunshine Law."
Attorney Carty disagreed. In an Oct. 15 letter to the commissioner, he said the V.I. Code makes no reference to an "executive committee." Further, he wrote, the Code provides that "all meetings of a governmental agency, or a subdivision thereof, authorized to take action on behalf of the agency, shall be open to the public."
Attorney Carty declined commenting on the correspondence Friday, since no decision had been made at that time. The Source did not obtain the copies of the correspondence from Carty.
The commissioner declined to release the minutes to the Source last month, after the committee's recommendation had been made public

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