Rep. Jose I. Itibus (R-Saipan) had started work as the CNMI House of Representatives’ health czar, joining other House members in inspecting the drug rehabilitation facility in Marpi and meeting with officials of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. last week.
The first-term lawmaker, who chairs the House Committee on Health, said the rehab facility is not yet fully operational as construction and renovation are still ongoing.
“It will still take a little while for it to open. How long? They did not give us a time frame but it all depends on the contractors of the project.According to our guide, the buildings and rooms need to be renovated while also making upgrades in some areas. There are already two contractors that already submitted specifications and, as soon as everything is finalized, they are going to put out a [request for proposal].”
He said the tour gave committee members an idea of what the place looks like when it finally opens. “Just to give us an idea of how it would look like and how it would operate. At least, we had the chance to see the planned facility.”
The Community Guidance Center will also be helping in the facility where their staff is hoping construction moves fast. Counselors will be working with other agencies like the newly established CNMI drug court.
Itibus’ committee also met CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muna and other hospital officials to know their current situation, especially the nurses that are going to be affected by the CNMI-Only Transitional Nonimmigrant Worker visa program’s numerical cap.
“We sat with them for the first time and asked about their concerns. They also gave an update on the CW1 cap issue where they are trying to address it right now, especially the nurses who are expected to be affected by the cap,” said Itibus.
“They said they are on top of the situation and are trying to find ways so the hospital’s operations won’t be hampered. We’re going to work with them to find a solution so our healthcare system won’t be affected.”
He added that they are hoping Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s (Ind-MP) bill in U.S. Congress, House Resolution 339, would finally pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
HR 339 aims to increase the CW1 numerical limit from 12,998 to 15,000 for fiscal year 2017 and increases the education fee for each approved CW1 permit from $150 to $200. The funds are used to train U.S. qualified workers.
“A significant number of the CHCC staff is going to be affected by the cap this September and HR 339 would alleviate our situation. They have their legal counsel working with them and they are trying their best to see what solution could be done.”