Hospital OT costs rising as nurse staffing decreases

Attrition in the ranks of nurses at the Commonwealth Health Center has resulted in the remaining nurses having to work longer hours, which in turn has resulted in an increase in overtime costs at the islands’ lone public hospital.

CHC nursing director Leticia Reyes confirmed with Saipan Tribune that 28 nurses have either resigned or retired in the past six months, leaving them with only 139 nurses, down from 167 in December 2011.

Because of this, Reyes said they have no choice but to ask remaining nurses to work longer so as not to hamper the delivery of healthcare services.

As a result, overtime costs at the department alone now average 800 hours biweekly.

From the standard 5:1 patients-to-nurse ratio, CHC oftentimes exceeds the standard by up to seven patients per nurse per shift due to the lack of manpower.

When asked if this ratio is considered “within federal standard,” Reyes explained that as long as a nurse starts a shift with up to five patients, any additional patient that will come in under the shift is considered acceptable.

Reyes said that CHC plans to recruit more nurses in two batches. Their goal is to first fill the 24 nursing slots for those who resigned; the other batch is for the last four nurses who quit.

Reyes, together with the corporation’s human resource office, recently interviewed more than 24 applicants-majority of whom are nonresident nurses on island.

The new immigration system is, however, delaying the hiring process. Reyes cited as an example the need to wait for the CW permit before an individual can actually start working for their employer.

According to Reyes, all applicants are qualified and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX and are currently working in private clinics and health agencies on island.

“I am hopeful that by end of this month or early August, we can fill those positions,” she said.

By Moneth Deposa

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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