CNMI Hospital’s Medical Supplies ‘Fully Stocked’

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CNMI Hospital’s Medical Supplies ‘Fully Stocked’ Onsite medical supply warehouse for CHC reopened

By Tammy Doty

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 3, 2013) – Two fork-lifts are once again busy at the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s (CHC) medical supply facilities.

The corporation’s main lower base warehouse and a newly reconstituted onsite hospital supply office are brimming with incoming supplies, and more are arriving every day.

"CHC is fully stocked with all major medical supplies including those needed to support the hemodialysis unit," CHC’s medical supply officer John Diego Urumelog told Variety yesterday.

The corporation has made a concerted effort to pay its obligations to vendors, reducing the amount owed from over $2 million to under $500,000 in the last eight months.

The significant pay-off of vendor debt was made possible by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, or CMS.

Last October, CHC switched to the certified public expenditure model, whereby CMS reimburses the hospital on a cost basis and not on billings for services.

Since the change, CHC has drawn down close to $20 million in critical funding.

Onsite supplies

Adjacent to CHC’s administration offices in the new wing is a newly reopened onsite supply warehouse.

The logistics change came about to attain two objectives: real-time tracking and delivery of critical supplies, and; freeing up medical staff to focus on their primary responsibility of patient care.

"Nurses and other unit staff shouldn’t stop patient care because they need to hunt for supplies or do inventory," explained medical supply officer Urumelog.

During a visit by Variety yesterday the on-site supply hub was full, spotless, organized and the staff knew exactly where every type of material was located.

Minimizing the distance between supplies and medical providers is also hoped to drive down costs over the long run by alleviating unnecessary rush ordering.

Medical supply office employees are now responsible for inventory and re-supply at most units ensuring greatly improved accountability, efficiency and responsiveness.

Given the high demand for supplies at the hospital’s dialysis unit, a full 50 percent of space is devoted to its needs and physically separated from the rest of the facility’s materials for an even higher level of inventory management.

The news comes as welcome relief for the 110 dialysis patients the corporation treats from one to three times a week.

But real relief is also felt by the hospital’s medical employees.

"The improved system is working very well so far and front-line staff is happy to be relieved of non-medical duties and focus on patient health," Urumelog explained of the feedback to date.

Moreover, the need to ‘squirrel-away’ critical supplies by medical staff — as was common last year when vendors cut CHC off — is now a ghost of the past.

"We’re meeting our financial and professional obligations to employees and vendors and trust is being restored," noted chief executive officer Esther Muna.

Most importantly though is the confidence employees have now in knowing supplies are at the ready for patient care.

At perhaps one of the hospital’s lowest points last summer, the laboratory didn’t have supplies to run even basic tests on patients to determine if they were having a stroke or heart attack; a situation that had physicians wringing their hands in frustration.

However, the summer of 2013 is looking much better for patients and the hospital in general; just in time for an impending CMS resurvey expected any day.

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