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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Closure is not the preferred outcome, but there are other options if HIMA Group stops operating

Representatives of the Grupo HIMA hospital consortium met with the directors of the Municipal Revenue Collections Center on Thursday.

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Thursday that although the government prefers that Grupo HIMA remain in operation, they are prepared to assume the patients and human resources in other available facilities.

“Ideally, HIMA would be able to continue operating, perhaps not with the same capacity, perhaps not with the same number of beds and hospitals, but ideally it would continue to operate,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “The other alternative is a closure. Let’s assume the bankruptcy fails and the judge basically dismisses the bankruptcy. The reorganization petition then falls into liquidation. That is the closure. We are also prepared for a closure if that happens.”

“We prefer that it continue to operate, either with the same capacity or a similar capacity,” Pierluisi added. “That will not happen, because if the bankruptcy process fails, we are prepared. Why do I say it? Right now the hospitals in Puerto Rico have plenty of capacity. There are hospitals in the Caguas region, there are hospitals in the Bayamón region, in the two main regions where HIMA has hospitals, that can replace the service offered by HIMA. At URRA [Regional Hospital] in Bayamón, which is a public hospital, we have there in excess of 100 additional beds available that can be activated. The employees in Puerto Rico lack nurses, doctors, so those who are working there are not going to have any difficulty working in the public hospitals of the Puerto Rico government or in other private hospitals that want to fill the space of HIMA.”

In other words, what I am saying is that if we are very attentive, we prefer that it not close,” the governor said. “But closing, which has nothing to do with the government, has to do with everything they did for 10 and 11 years, all those debts they accumulated.”

On Aug. 15, the HIMA Group filed for Chapter 11 under the Bankruptcy Law. The conglomerate owes more than $400 million to its creditors, which include the island government and the municipalities where they have real estate.

Mayors tell the HIMA Group that they will not forgive the debt

Municipal Revenue Collections Center (CRIM by its Spanish acronym) governing board chairman Jesús Edgardo Colón Berlingeri said meanwhile on Thursday that the island’s mayors refused to forgive Grupo HIMA’s debt.

The representatives of the hospital consortium met with the directors of the CRIM.

“They did not present a new and viable scenario for the municipalities; they came back and stressed their position that they be exempted from practically all the taxes that they owe to each of the municipalities and none of the mayors agrees with that,” Colón Berlingeri said at the end of the board meeting in San Juan.

“We stand on the position that they need to pay their debt and that our debt is a debt that has to be in the first order of priority in court,” he added.

The mayor of Orocovis also maintained that, if the bankruptcy assets are sold, Grupo HIMA will have to pay the $12 million that it owes the CRIM.

The executive director of CRIM, Reinaldo Paniagua Látimer, maintained that the proposal that Grupo HIMA presented to him was to reduce interest charges and penalties, but they had to present a guarantee that the debt has priority and hospital operations will continue.

“That is not negotiable, and they have to guarantee us that they will continue to operate as a hospital and that these jobs will not be lost, because otherwise we are not willing to take a single step,” Paniagua Látimer said. “Nor is it on the table to erase the debt from the CRIM books.”

At the meeting, the debt status of the municipalities of Caguas, Bayamón, Humacao and Fajardo was presented.

“And since they couldn’t guarantee anything, we told them we were staying where we were,” the CRIM executive director said.

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