Rota Rep. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) is urging the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to spare the Rota Health Center from further manpower cuts, saying this will place the island's people in serious jeopardy.
In a letter to CEO Juan N. Babauta dated Oct. 19, Santos said the people of Rota are very much concerned about the corporation's plan to enforce another reduction-in-force, which has already affected a dozen employees on Rota.
Saipan Tribune learned that the Rota Health Center has over 40 employees, down from the previous year's count of 52.
Two doctors, two registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses, eight nursing assistants, and other support and administrative staff currently make up the center's workforce.
“Our physicians have informed us that if, in fact, we are cut loose by the proposed downsizing, it will constitute a crisis situation for Rota and its approximately 2,000 residents. We will have to fend for ourselves and we will have to find a way to secure our own contract to transport our patients because existing vendors are unwilling to assist us due to non-payment of its account with the corporation,” Santos told Babauta.
Compounding the situation is the physical isolation of the island and the unavailability of a reliable emergency off-island referral, which often forces the Rota government to request a rescue mission from the U.S. Coast Guard in Guam to transport critical patients to a better facility.
“Needless to say, the time it takes to arrange such a mission is time lost for the patient and maybe the difference between life and death. Any downsizing of the ability of RHC to manage emergencies and short stay patients will place the residents of Rota in serious jeopardy,” added Santos.
She said any reduction-in-force must be accompanied by a reciprocal improvement of the center's ability to transfer patients to a center where care is available.
Prior to the 2011 takeover of the corporation, the health centers on Rota and Tinian were under the jurisdiction of their respective municipalities, which allocate budgets for the centers. The corporation took over that responsibility after the takeover last year.
Just recently, Babauta disclosed that among the cost-cutting measures the corporation is considering is giving back control of the Rota and Tinian health centers to their respective municipalities. However, the law must be amended to make that happen.
“Santos pointed out that given the limited revenue generated by Medicaid and the fact that the corporation is an autonomous agency, “RHC is unlikely to be sustainable as a freestanding hospital” and needs continued government funding to maintain essential services.
Corporation data obtained by Saipan Tribune showed that the budget for RHC this fiscal year is $1.377 million for 56 FTEs; $1,500 for repair and maintenance; and $3,000 for operational expenses.