The Guam Daily Post

12 23Thu11262015


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Back Opinion CNMI healthcare crisis impacts Guam

CNMI healthcare crisis impacts Guam

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THERE is a rapidly deteriorating situation in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas that is already having a significant impact on Guam. That is the current state of emergency affecting the Commonwealth hospital and health insurance services.

Doctors are resigning in frustration, and nurses are banding together in living quarters and threatening to also leave due to housing allowances not being paid for months. And the government’s health and life insurance program last week threatened to withdraw coverage because premiums are not being paid.

The Commonwealth Health Center is already experiencing shortages of medicine, bandages and other dressings, and other medical supplies. In an internal memo obtained by Marianas Variety on Saipan, dated March 21 to CEO Juan N. Babauta, "There were 15 separate tests the laboratory was unable to perform because of a lack of supplies.”

Now Guam Radiology Consultants has advised the CNMI that it has suspended service to the Northern Marianas Medicaid program as of last Friday, because of “a lack of any payment for six months.”

GRC says they will continue to provide urgent care, emergency and pediatric cases, according to Rick Schnitzer, their chief financial officer, but “interpretive services” for the Commonwealth Health Center will no longer be provided until the total amount due is paid. This is a major blow to the ability of the CNMI to treat patients, since interventional radiology interpretive services provided by GRC are not available on Saipan.

All of this ultimately affects our healthcare services here on Guam because we are the closest location to the CNMI; and with what is happening to health care on Saipan, any problems we may be having on Guam pale in comparison. The government of the CNMI is in desperate financial condition, with no end in sight.

In the past, the CNMI government has preferred to refer patients to Hawaii and California facilities. But expensive airplane tickets are no longer feasible, and Guam is at least a more affordable place to reach. So more and more patients are flying here.

The impact on Guam Memorial Hospital is already being felt in the shortage of beds, and the payment circumstances for GMH are certainly not much better than those for the private radiology consultants. It’s a situation which is likely to get worse.

We’re pretty sure Gov. Eddie Calvo and his CNMI counterpart, Gov. Benigno Fitial, discussed this matter at some point during the Micronesian Chiefs meeting held here earlier this month. If they didn’t, they surely should have. We’re neighbors, but we can’t carry the entire CNMI healthcare crisis on our backs. The CNMI desperately needs help.

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