U.S. LAUDS MARIANAS MEDICAL REFERRAL PROGRAM

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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 12) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Public Health’s medical referral program has impressed visiting officials of the U.S. Emergency Medical Services for Children who said the commonwealth "is way ahead of other territories in the Pacific."

Emergency Medical Services for Children executive director Tasmeen Singh visited the Commonwealth Health Center yesterday morning with Emergency Medical Services for Children’ National Emergency Data Analysis Director Michael Ely and outreach coordinator Theresa Morrison-Quinata.

They met with Public Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez who told them about the local medical referral program.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government, Singh quoted Villagomez as telling her, spends US$30,000 to US$40,000 on transportation alone.

Singh noted how challenging this is for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands "because it costs a much money."

Other territories, she said, are figuring out how to cope with medical referral costs.

They are "particularly impressed," she said that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government pays for medical referrals.

In other territories, patients who cannot pay have to stay on island, she added.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, she said, "is unique because they have an appropriation of US$3.7 million to US$4 million to pay for it, which is great."

Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, she added, are "trying the best they can but they don’t have as much money as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has, so it’s a big issue especially for us (because) we’re worried about children."

She said that on the mainland U.S., it usually takes only an hour to transport patients on medical referral from one hospital to another, but in the Pacific, "it takes hours and hours and that’s very, very long."

The Emergency Medical Services for Children officials also visited the Commonwealth Health Center’s emergency room and pediatric ward.

Singh and Ely said they saw things that they expect to see.

Although the pediatric ward has only 12 rooms, it is good enough, according to Ely who saw that some rooms were not occupied.

When the ward receives many patients, she said the nurses told them that there are always available rooms in the adjacent C-side ward.

Singh said the visit is part of their program so "they can see how public health agencies in the territories are doing with the federal money they get."

Singh took photographs of some portions of the facilities as she and Morrison-Quinata questioned emergency unit manager Joey Camero and pediatric unit manager Erina Olkeriil.

The visiting officials also inspected the equipment in the ER’s observation room, trauma room and x-ray room where records show that about 50 patients a day are treated there.

They were also able to see Commonwealth Health Centers’ newly installed computerized radiography used in getting x-ray results without the dark room.

The hospital, Signh said, "is well-equipped — it has a lot of services and the building is very well-maintained, very clean."

The pediatric unit, she said. is "very nice, and it is much better than we expected."

Ely said "there’s a lot of good resources at the hospital and very good facilities. We’re pleasantly surprised by all the resources available."

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