The Commonwealth Health Center will soon lose the services of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps after its remaining members’ contracts with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. expires this week.
Interim corporation CEO Esther Muña confirmed yesterday that the contracts for the federal team members will expire on Saturday, Sept. 7. However, they were approved a short extension until the end of this month.
Muña said that only two USPHS officers remain with the hospital. One of them is serving as the hospital’s laboratory manager, a hard-to-fill position.
“There are two USPHS officers on site. We were advised today [Wednesday] that their stay is extended till Sept. 30,” said Muña yesterday.
The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps sent a team of medical personnel in December 2012 to assist the hospital, which was then at the brink of losing its certification from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.
The medical team, composed of 16 officers, was at the time led by Rear Adm. Newton E. Kendig, medical director and assistant director of the Health Services Division of the Bureau of Prisons. The team was assigned a 90-day mentoring mission at CHC to ensure the facility’s continued certification with CMS.
The team’s deployment was the result of a memorandum of agreement between the CNMI, USHHS, and the Office of Insular Affairs, which funded the salaries of the visiting group.
When they left in March 2013 upon the expiration of their 90-day mission, the team left behind some members to continue assisting and filling key roles, including the lab manager position.
Prior to their exit, the group completed a sustainability plan that was intended to serve as a “starting point” for the hospital. This comprehensive report includes operational recommendations for quality practice and sustainability for CHC. The corps also staged a mock visit to help prepare CHC for an upcoming CMS visit.
Muña did not identify the two remaining USPHS officers and did not provide a response when asked about the corporation’s plans after the two’s departure.
During last week’s meeting of the CHCC board, Muna said that since the corporation now has a new laboratory director in Dr. Philip Dauterman, CMS indicated during its biweekly conference that as long as a lab director is present, the lack of a laboratory manager will not hamper lab operations.
CHC, which remains under a state of emergency, is still addressing the concerns of CMS in its September 2012 survey visit where it identified 13 areas of concern that need to be rectified. Medicare has scheduled a resurvey visit to the hospital in October this year.