CNMI HEMODIALYSIS PATIENTS TO BE REFERRED TO HAWAI‘I

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 20, 1999 - Marianas Variety)---The Commonwealth Health Center is set to formalize a memorandum of understanding with a Hawai‘i-based hospital for the immediate referral of a large number of CNMI patients under its hermodialysis program.

Public Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez disclosed St. Francis Hospital has agreed to accept CNMI hemodialysis patients who are in dire need of more advanced treatment, which the Hawai‘i-based medical institution provides.

The move, which will expand the CNMI Department of Public Health’s medical referral program, is seen as providing better health care services to the growing number of hemodialysis patients here.

CHC’s hemodialysis program served 76 patients last year, 67 in 1997 and 53 in 1996.

"We are going to formalize an MOU with St. Francis, where they will be accepting our hermodialysis patients. We probably have to shift many of our hemodialysis patients to St. Francis because they have a state-of-the-art facility and the president of the hospital assured they will be able to go on and assist us," said Villagomez.

The health secretary also pointed out that the forthcoming MOU will also benefit the CHC as it does not have to refer patients to more distant clinics, including the U.S. mainland.

In related news, Villagomez said two other Hawai‘i medical institutions, which earlier threatened to refuse referred CNMI patients, continue to accept patients from CHC.

Villagomez said the concerns of Straub Clinic and Hospital, Inc. and Kapiolani Women and Children Hospital are directed towards the CNMI government’s health insurance, which had large amounts of unsettled payments.

"Their issue is not with DPH, but it is important that we work with the GHLIP because if they don’t accept government insurance, then it is a huge cost to us in the medical referral program," said Villagomez.

CNMI patients are also being referred to other off-island clinics like the Queen’s Medical Center, and certain medical centers in the Philippines.

Every month there are around 10 to 15 patients who are referred to Honolulu, Hawai‘i. In Guam, five to 10 patients are sent every month, mostly to undergo magnetic resonance imagining examinations.

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