All adults should have a primary care provider, often shortened to “PCP.” This is a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner who is your first health contact and the person who thinks about the whole you—prevention, vaccinations, short- and long-term health problems, health education, mental and social health issues, and so on. Even if you’re not sick, they can help you avoid future problems, recommend a good lifestyle, look for hidden risks, help you understand health problems that you may not know you have, and answer health questions.
Primary care providers have a broad knowledge of many health issues and can take care of most problems. For example, a PCP can manage and treat high blood pressure, heart disease, infections, thyroid illness, arthritis, chest pain, lung disease, diabetes, asthma and emphysema, anxiety, chest pain, most kidney diseases, back pain, depression and anxiety, maternal and child health, and so on.
If your disease is advanced or complicated and the PCP needs advice or thinks you may need a procedure or operation, she or he may refer you to a specialist. Specialists include cardiologists, urologists, pulmonologists, orthopedists, surgeons, nephrologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, neurologists, and more. Specialists understand a much smaller range of human health but they know it in better detail and depth. Your PCP will use a specialist’s help to fit that one particular treatment into your total health needs.
It is important that you have one primary care provider to coordinate your care. If you do see a specialist, it is important that your PCP gets the records from the specialist to fit their advice into the big picture that is your health.
Imagine your health is like a soup, and doctors are the chefs. If one chef is making katdun katne (beef shank soup) and has already added the beef shanks, carrots, celery, ginger, potatoes, garlic and onions to the water, and another chef walks in and thinks the soup is eskabeche (fish with vegetables in vinegar), she may throw in fish and vinegar. And if both chefs like spicy soup, and don’t communicate, they may both add a generous helping of Tinian chilis. You would end up with an inedible soup. Without a head chef to coordinate what goes into the soup, you would end up with an unpalatable meal. Similar to the role of a head chef, it’s important to have a PCP to oversee and coordinate your health care.
There may be times when you cannot see your PCP, and you need to see a different doctor. As long as the records (the recipe) are shared and there is good communication between the other doctor and your PCP, this can work. When your PCP gets information on your health from any other doctors you see, including those off-island, your PCP is better able to understand your health history, and better equipped to help you make the right decisions for your health. As a rule, pick a primary care provider and try to stick with her or him.
Most people don’t like discussing their health with a stranger, so it’s important that you choose a PCP that you trust. The next step is to attend regular appointments with your PCP. If you’re healthy, you should see your PCP at least once a year. If you have a health condition, you should visit your doctor as often as she or he recommends. Even if you don’t feel sick, your PCP can catch health issues early. Your doctor’s office is a safe place where you can talk openly and ask questions about your health. Give your PCP the opportunity to help you achieve a healthier life by asking her or him for guidance when something is weighing on your mind.
Contact information is listed below for primary care providers in the CNMI. Note that some providers may not be accepting new patients at this time, or may not be covered under your health insurance plan. Check with your insurance company to see which providers are covered under your plan.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.
Women’s Clinic (Lower Navy Hill, Saipan)
Phone: (670) 234-8950 Ext.3521/3522
Family Care Clinic (Lower Navy Hill, Saipan)
Phone: (670) 234-8950 Ext. 3503/3504/3505/3305
Children’s Clinic (Lower Navy Hill, Saipan)
Phone: (670) 234-8950 Ext.3519/3520
Kagman Community Health Center
Tel: (670) 256-KCHC (5242)/5243/5240/5247
Tinian Health Center
Tel: (670) 433-9233
Rota Health Center
Marianas Medical Center (MMC)
Tel: (670) 234-3926/27/30
Saipan Health Clinic (SHC)
Tel: (670) 234-2901/02/03/04/05
Medical Associates of the Pacific (MAP)
Tel: (670) 323-9000
Pacific Medical Center (PMC)
Tel: (670) 233-8100
Marianas Health Services (MHS)
Tel: (670) 233-4646
Eucon Medical Health
Tel: (670) 233-3647
ELIZABETH KOHNEN M.D.(Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Dr. Elizabeth Kohnen is a physician at the Commonwealth Health Center.