The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has hired 10 new nurses to help augment the shortage of nursing staff in key units at the public hospital.
Nursing director Leticia Reyes confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday that 10 new nurses will officially report for work today, Aug. 1, at the Commonwealth Health Center. They are all nonresident workers who were recruited locally.
Reyes said the new employees were part of the first batch of candidates interviewed by the corporation in April to immediately fill the first nurses who quit their posts early this year.
CHC has been losing several nursing staff since December due to uncertainties at the public hospital. From 167 nurses, the staff count is now down to 138 as of yesterday. Majority of these nurses are nonresidents recruited from the Philippines.
Prior to the hiring of the 10 new employees, U.S. citizen nurses were also hired last month, immediately replacing some vacant nursing positions, Reyes said.
Eight nurses resigned in a span of a week last month due to uncertainties in their retirement contributions.
With 10 new nurses, this will boost the nursing workforce to 148.
Reyes admits, however, that the nursing shortage remains a big concern at the public hospital because many nurses were oftentimes asked to work additional hours to cover for vacant positions.
As a result of this shortage, the corporation's overtime cost jumped from about 1,000 hours to over 1,400 hours biweekly. Reyes vowed to reduce the overhead cost once additional hires come in.
Reyes aims to fill all 167 FTEs at the soonest possible time but readily concedes that this will not be easy due to the challenges of hiring off-island candidates.
Reyes hopes that the 138 nurses at CHC right now will stay on and keep their jobs to prevent any major impact on healthcare services at the hospital. She said recruitment is ongoing for the vacant positions and they plan to recruit from outside the CNMI.
Due to lack of manpower, CHC oftentimes exceeds the standard 5:1 patients-to-nurse ratio, sometimes by up to seven patients per nurse per shift, Saipan Tribune learned.