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Sunday, April 20, 2014

CHC’s lone orthopedic surgeon leaves for good

After weighing his options, Dr. Grant Walker has decided to leave Saipan for good but he vowed to continue helping the CNMI, if not directly then via email.

Walker is scheduled to go back to Idaho today to continue his practice. His departure will leave the Commonwealth Health Center with no orthopedic surgeon once more.

Walker was recruited from Idaho for a temporary 30-day contract with the public hospital on a $185,000 per annum base. He temporarily succeeded Dr. Ruben Arafiles as CHC’s orthopedic surgeon.

Interim Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CFO Cora Ada confirmed that Walker has already been paid for the initial 120 hours service he rendered. The rest of his salary is expected in the next pay period.

In an interview yesterday, Walker had nothing but appreciation for the CNMI and its people. Despite what he described as “mud-slogging” with interim corporation CEO Esther Muña, he said his one-month experience on island was worthwhile and memorable.

Walker’s exit was put on the spotlight after his privileges at CHC was terminated by the corporation’s governing body four days before his temporary contract expired. Reasons for the immediate termination include allegations of unprofessional conduct and insubordination, which Walker denied.

Prior to his departure, Walker had said he would move to private practice here in the CNMI. He offered, however, to continue providing free advice to CHC patients and families needing orthopedic services.

By terminating his privileges to use CHC’s facilities, Walker could not operate as an orthopedic surgeon in the private sector due to lack of operating room for his surgeries.

Before leaving the island, Walker said he wants to convey how grateful he is to the islands and its people, whom he has learned to love and care about. He said he is very much willing to serve the CNMI if another opportunity comes around.

“Other than the mud-slogging on both sides, I feel 110 percent positive about this island. And if another opportunity comes, I am very much ready and willing to come back and serve this island,” he told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

Raised in Idaho’s “cowboy culture,” Walker described the local culture as very similar to his family’s practice. He expressed his admiration of how people of the island show cultural respect for one another.

If there’s one thing he regrets about his stay, it’s the squabble that became a battle of pride between his camp and the interim CEO. “People of Saipan ultimately paid the prize [for that].”

As a visiting physician, Walker pointed out the need for an “outpatient surgery/birthing center” under a public-private partnership. In this setup, Walker said, the government owns the center and equipment while private physicians lease the center for their practice. “This way, I think surgery center will go a long way.”

Once this is built, CHC’s surgery and birthing departments could handle more difficult services “while smaller ones can be taken cared of at the outpatient surgery/birthing center.”

Walker said the public may contact him at Dr.GrantWalker@gmail.com for free medical advice.

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