The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. officially opened its own pharmacy yesterday, plugged by corporation officials as a means to address the needs of the CNMI people and the overall healthcare system of the CNMI.
As the overseer of the healthcare needs of the CNMI, CHCC continues to expand, said CHCC CEO Esther Muña, to become the community’s “effective healthcare partner.”
“This pharmacy belongs to the people of the CNMI. It is part of an integrated health system that is focused on improving the health of the people of the CNMI. We at CHCC are proud of this opening and look forward to more improvements throughout the hospital and our heath system,” she said.
Muña pointed out that CHCC does not merely focus on acute care, nor is it just about educating and promoting good health. “CHCC is a health system that must consider everything across the continuum of care,” she said.
Muña said the decision to re-open the Commonwealth Health Center’s only in-patient pharmacy department was made several years ago “in expectation of new regulations and to ease the daily struggle of those who rely on the health system.”
She said the CHCC Pharmacy intends to be “accessible, affordable,” and carry a wide selection of medicine and medical supply.
“Rather than have our focus only on the inpatient side, we also see that hospitals in the U.S. are also looking at running their own outpatient pharmacy. That is something that is part of the trend because they see how healthcare can be more effective that way,” Muña said.
She highlighted the testimony and role that Louise Concepcion played in having the opening of the pharmacy a reality.
“She heard our plan to bring better drug pricing and, one afternoon, she called, telling me that, despite of her illness, she wants to advocate for more affordable medication and speak publicly about how the costs of medication can be an obstacle to health.
“Ms. Concepcion is at peace now, but her story lives on, and we honor her today,” Muña added.
She was quick to belie the idea that CHCC Pharmacy will be competing with existing medical providers and pharmacies in the region and on island.
“This is not a competition but a collaboration. When you look at CHCC, we work with everyone. We work with Guam Medical Hospital as when they don’t have blood, we share blood and they do the same thing for us,” she said. “We don’t look at this as a competition with PHI [Pharmacy] either. We look at it as another choice for our patients. …At the end of the day, when you are living in a remote island, you need to collaborate with your providers.”
Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), who was present during the opening of the CHCC Pharmacy, enumerated three advantages: assist the hospital’s outpatients, give patients access to medicines before they leave the hospital, and provide patients access to low-cost medicines.
“Providing medications even before patients leave the hospital has a lot of advantages to it,” he said. “However way you look at it, it’s a positive move for our community hospital that is for the benefit for our community.
“I heard there are quite a lot more that the hospital has in store for this year and I believe it is going to be a worthwhile endeavor,” he added.
Rep. Edwin K. Prost (Ind-Saipan) said the opening of the pharmacy will benefit the public.
“This is a welcome addition and something that is crucial and needed to be celebrated because it is a win-win situation. It gives CHCC an opportunity to earn income but also provide discounted rate for families who struggle with keeping up with healthcare costs,” he said.
“This also empowers people because of the choices we now have: CHCC Pharmacy, PHI, and Brabu …With many families that need to decide whether to pay their CUC bill or get medicine for treatment, now they have options,” he added.
Muña said that at CHCC, everything is a priority.
“Because of our cash flow issue, we don’t have the luxury to decide which priority is over the other. …We make a decision based on how it impacts healthcare,” she said. “This made us see the opportunity to build an outpatient pharmacy that addresses a population that does not have access to medication and in dire need of a healthcare partner.”
CHCC Pharmacy is at the ground floor of CHCC. Business operations are Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6pm, Saturday-Sunday, from 8am to 5pm, and holidays.