After more than 15 years, Saipan will once again have a nonprofit pharmacy at the CNMI’s only hospital. The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will open its own outpatient pharmacy in September of this year and will sell prescription and over-the-counter drugs for outpatient use.
The CHCC aims to help those with low incomes afford their prescriptions. The corporation will use federal discount programs that are designed to help public, nonprofit health care organizations purchase eligible drugs at a lower cost so the savings can be passed on to the patient. The CHCC’s outpatient pharmacy will also supply drugs for the HIV/STD, family planning, and TB programs.
According to CHCC CEO Esther Muna, “It’s not easy to find opportunities that can help us sustain operations while improving health outcomes, so we’re very excited about this. With our own pharmacy, we can make certain that our patients are getting the medicine they need at the lowest possible price. We expect that better access to medication will help people stay out of a hospital bed. We’ll even be able to generate revenue to reinvest into the Corporation.”
Chronic illnesses including high blood pressure and diabetes are some of the most common population health concerns in the CNMI. The treatment of these illnesses often requires the use of long-term medication. Although treating symptoms of these diseases and preventing related problems is possible with lifestyle changes and medication, many CHCC patients do not take their medications as prescribed.
“There are many factors that contribute to the problem of patients not taking their medication. Cost and communication barriers are probably the most common reasons our patients don’t take their medicine like they should. We hope to help patients tackle these hurdles with our own pharmacy,” stated Special Assistant Kaitlyn Neises-Mocanu.
Plans to begin remote dispensing, otherwise known as telepharmacy, on Tinian and Rota are also being made. Remote dispensing would allow the outpatient pharmacy to operate on the islands of Tinian and Rota because the overhead and professional fees are spread out. A pharmacist would not need to be physically stationed on Tinian or Rota.
Although the CHCC continues to face challenges with staff nurses due to the CW visa shortage, the CHCC is in a better position with pharmacy staff, according to Muna. (PR)