The cash-strapped Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has posted significant declines in the number of its employees on three islands but its personnel cost remains high.
Corporation chief financial officer Alvaro Santos disclosed to Saipan Tribune that from over $800,000 in payroll cost every two weeks, the amount went down slightly to nearly $700,000 per pay period-an amount that he says continues to be high for an organization that has very limited funding resources.
When the corporation took over the Department of Public Health in October last year, it had about 600 employees working in the Commonwealth Health Center, Tinian, and Rota health clinics. Latest corporation records show that the personnel count is down to over 450 following several resignations, retirements, and the emergency workforce reduction earlier implemented by management.
Santos confirmed that overtime costs have spiked since the departure of a large number of nurses starting in May.
Nursing director Leticia Reyes separately confirmed this last week, saying that overtime cost remains high at this time because they have no option but ask their nurses to extend their working hours to fill the critical void left by those who have already left.
Santos said that when the corporation started, overtime cost totaled about 1,400 hours per pay period. He sees almost the same level at present due to the resignations and manpower shortages in key areas.
“Until we get replacements, we will continue to see an increasing cost for overtime,” he said.
Meantime, Santos disclosed that the corporation has yet to receive a single penny from the additional $7 million line of credit from the Marianas Public Land Trust. He said that “involved parties” in the loan agreement are still working on several details and requirements being asked by MPLT.
“All parties here are working together to fast track the process so the money can become available to us,” he said, referring to the Finance Department, the corporation, and the Office of the Attorney General.
Optimistic that the corporation can deliver on all requirements, Santos expects the first drawdown in the next two months. The $7 million additional line of credit will be released by MPLT on a per-need request by the corporation.