Possible Nursing Shortage Could Impact CNMI Hospital Certification

If foreign workers forced to leave, CHC could lose Medicare & Medicaid funding

By Bryan Manabat

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 27, 2017) – The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s looming nursing shortage will affect its certification from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna said on Sunday.

Without CMS certification, CHCC cannot claim reimbursement for medical treatment provided to its CMS-covered patients.

If CHCC loses more than half of its nonresident nurses in December because of the CW cap, Muna said they may have to temporarily close the women and children’s clinic, the family care clinic, and other clinics such as the one for the immunization program.

But she said they must keep the emergency room, the dialysis center, the operating room and hospital wards open.

Muna noted that a health workforce shortage is a challenge throughout the nation, including Guam, and not just in the CNMI.

Of the 171 CHCC personnel who may have to leave the CNMI, 125 are nurses, including three from the Rota Health Center and five from the Tinian Health Center.

Muna said there should be a separate classification of nonresident workers for healthcare.

“It is necessary to ensure that CHCC is not competing with other industries in the CNMI for the same CW slots. In a booming economy, the CNMI also needs to strengthen its healthcare system.”

She said they “are moving forward by reevaluating our human resources policies and our services and identifying those who qualify for H-1B visas. Our goal is to ensure that our services will still be available and accessible to the people of the CNMI.”

Closely monitoring

In a separate interview, acting Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said the administration is closely monitoring the situation regarding healthcare issues and the community’s continued access to essential nurses and medical staff.

“This is certainly one of the most dire needs of the CNMI under the CW program, and is one that is at the forefront of our discussions related to the passage of U.S. Congressman [Gregorio Kilili Camacho] Sablan’s critically essential bill, H.R. 339,” Bautista said.

“If passed, HR. 339 will allow a momentary increase of the CW program’s numerical limitations to allow these vital personnel to continue to provide the essential services people need in the absence of the necessary local labor force to fill these positions.

“The governor supports Congressman Sablan in his efforts to pass H.R. 339 through Congress and will continue to work closely with him to see that our public services and our economy have the necessary workers to succeed,” Bautista said.

Kilili’s measure that will increase from 12,998 to 15,000 the cap for CNMI-Only transitional worker permits is now with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources chaired by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.


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