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Monday, April 21, 2014

Hiring of additional CHC nurses moves at snail’s pace

The hiring of more nurses for the Commonwealth Health Center is moving at a snail’s pace, with the total nursing workforce unchanged at 168 as of this week. The sluggish rate is due to the difficulty of finding qualified individuals on island, not because of funding shortages, which is usually the case of other public agencies.

This was confirmed by hospital administrator Jesse Tudela, who targets to have at least 170 nurses by the end of the month.

“We have some who are being recruited and the paper work and contracts are routing. …We might be up to 170 by end of January,” he told Saipan Tribune.

He conceded, though, that 170 is far from the ideal ratio for the public hospital, which used to employ 225 nurses.

“We’re still short-staffed and nursing is probably the most critical need right now. There’s a high turnover rate and there’s not enough on island to fill all the vacancies we need,” said Tudela.

He pointed at the need to seek more medical professionals from outside the Commonwealth to fill this vital gap at the Commonwealth Health Center.

When asked if the corporation intends to fill all 225 nursing positions, Tudela said: “Yes, we intend to fill them all because it’s budgeted. The challenge for us now is where to find them.”

Besides its shortage of nurses, more staff are needed for ancillary services such as x-ray technicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and others, he said.

Tudela credited the corporation management, however, for successfully reducing the number of vacancies in the organization as a result of its aggressive recruitment efforts.

Since early last year, CHC posted a huge drop in its nursing workforce, with at least 25 positions that needed to be filled as soon as possible.

To date, the public hospital has 168 full-time nurses. Saipan Tribune learned that at CHC, there are 112 registered nurses and 21 licensed practical nurses. Its nursing assistants/nursing aids number 23.

Because of the lack of more nurses, CHCC’s overtime costs have been increasing, averaging more than 2,000 hours and growing.

The nursing shortage is also attributed to the increasing volume of patients at the hospital.

In an earlier interview with CHCC nursing director Leticia Reyes, she told Saipan Tribune that the public hospital critically needs “experienced nurses,” specifically for sections like labor and delivery, intensive care unit, and others.

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