The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, through acting governor Eloy Inos and members of the Legislature and health corporation officials, honored Friday the man behind the establishment of the only public hospital on island in a special ceremony that also saw the attendance of community members and families.
Fr. Jose Garrido Villagomez, who flew in from Guam for the occasion, was presented with a plaque of appreciation and a joint resolution by the 17th Legislature saluting the monumental role he played in bringing to the people of the CNMI their very own Commonwealth Health Center.
Villagomez was chairman of the Commonwealth Health Coordinating Council from 1980 to 1986. He is a renowned and well-respected Capuchin priest ordained in 1974 and served the CNMI and Guam for over 30 years. He is now serving the people of Guam at the Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Yona, Guam.
In his brief remarks to the crowd, Villagomez said he is humbled and appreciative of the honor and recognitions bestowed on him. Villagomez was joined by family members during the special occasion.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Juan N. Babauta said the corporation is presently dealing with great challenges but this doesn't mean that they should not take time to remember and appreciate the the 25-year-old CHC, which has served the community so well.
Villagomez, according to Babauta, greatly influenced the way policies were made in the past, leading to the realization of the public hospital in 1985.
Acting governor Eloy Inos said the CNMI owes a lot to the “insight, wisdom, and guidance” shown by Villagomez during the facility's planning process.
Inos shared that prior to the completion of the hospital, there were about 18 change orders in the contract with total price tag of more than $20 million.
“This facility has gone through six governors over a span of 25 years and that's a powerful background,” said Inos, citing the many progresses at CHC including the building of the state-of-the-art hemodialysis center in October last year.
Inos also noted that coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the hospital is the first commemoration of the establishment of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., which took over the hospital's operation in October 2011.
Despite the ongoing challenges at CHC, Inos said he firmly believes that “there is light at the end of the tunnel.” He encouraged the community to work, support, and take pride in the island's only public hospital.
Fifteen other individuals and groups were also presented plaques of appreciation and certificates of recognition for their support to the public hospital for many years.
Inos, along with Babauta and corporation trustees Anthony Aguon and Roy Rios, awarded plaques of appreciation to Health and Human Services Region 9 director Herb Schultz, Office of Insular Affairs Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta, and CHC nephrologist Dr. Sharleen Osman.
Those who received certificates of recognition included the CHC Volunteer Association, the NMI Chapter of the American Red Cross, HANMI, Tan Holdings Corp., Public School System, Shriner Hospital, PIHOA, KKMP, Hinemlo Familia, Diabetes Coalition, Commonwealth Cancer Association, and Substance Abuse and Recovery Coalition.
Inos also signed three proclamations endorsing September as CNMI Prostate Cancer Awareness, Childhood Cancer and Childhood Obesity Awareness, and National Recovery Month.