The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. now has an office at the Francisco Ada/Saipan International Airport, putting it at the frontline of safeguarding public health.
According to program director Warren Villagomez, having the Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program at the airport will ideally place it at the front in the fight against diseases and other pandemics that may be brought to the CNMI.
He credits the Commonwealth Ports Authority and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for giving the program space at the airport.
“It is the first in the region other than the state of Hawaii and we have this site before Guam,” he said.
The office will be CHCC’s Public Health Information Center and used for isolation and quarantine if a potential passenger threat coming in has symptoms of any disease that may be emerging in the region,” he said.
“We are ready 24 hours as the program is on standby at all levels of threats and response that deals with health. It will be manned by trained preparedness staff,” he added.
Villagomez said that PHEPP works closely with the Marianas Visitors Authority and get migration updates from the Centers for Disease Control.
“We understand that Asian countries have big and frequent travelers. …The [information] we get from our partners, from government and non-government organizations, are very critical for us to determine our approaches,” he said.
Villagomez points out that the PHEPP health office at the airport does not entertain regular emergencies.
“It’s not for a regular emergency, as the airport has prepared personnel to cover those scenarios,” he said.
“We have doctors on call, 24/7 at CHCC and if there is a situation at the airport, we now have a facility that is ready to administer services as the health office is a satellite coordination site and we should be proud. We are badged so we have access to the airport and our staff and doctors will be ready to respond when it’s needed.” he added.
Villagomez said that plans to have similar offices on Tinian and Rota are in the pipeline.
“The Saipan International Airport gets all the direct flights and the amount of flights from Asian countries are on Saipan. We plan to put up the same offices on Tinian and Rota eventually, especially when charter flights on the two islands start to pour in. We say that this is a must as our airports are in the frontline,” he said.