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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, August 7) – NORTHERN Marianas College and the Department of Public Health have announced the full implementation of a training program — Area Health Education Centers — that aims to improve the "quality and quantity" of the CNMI’s nursing workforce.

Dr. Faye Untalan and Dr. Kelly Withy, professors of the University of Hawaii, said the program will help address the CNMI’s shortage of health care providers.

Health career enhancement and recruitment programs for K-12 students are emphasized by Area Health Education Centers, or AHEC.

"About 95 percent of the CNMI’s nursing and health care professionals are contractual non-residents," Untalan said. "This is the reason why we want this program to be formally implemented here especially at NMC," she added.

Rita H. Inos, the former education commissioner who is now a member of NMC’s board of regents, said the program encourages students to consider nursing and healthcare related courses in the future.

Public Health Secretary Kevin Villagomez said the program will help prepare young students who want to enter nursing schools.

Untalan said employing a contractual non-resident workforce is very costly to the CNMI government.

"It discourages the local people and affects the delivery of health care services," Untalan said, adding that it’s the objective of the program to form guidelines, provide training, curriculum and systems for nursing programs and healthcare-related services.

The federal program does not require matching funds from the CNMI government.

"What we are seeking is the government’s commitment to this undertaking," Untalan said.

NMC earlier rescinded fall semester invitations following the governor’s refusal to allow the college to hire an instructor from the Philippines.

NMC said 26 nursing students were entering their second year while 20 new students were expected to enroll this month.

But this will require five teachers and NMC only has four.

The nursing department requires an instructor to student ratio of 1:10.

[PIR editor’s note: The Northern Marianas College currently has campuses on three of its populated islands, Saipan being the largest of the three campuses. In addition to the new program, the campuses offer Associates Degrees and Certificates in business, education, nursing, hospitality, and vocational studies.]

Augus, 7, 2006

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