Muña says CHC beefing up primary care services


The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will sustain efforts this year and in following years to look for more innovative ways to improve health care delivery and change its procedural and surgical methods to save lives.

According to CEO Esther Muña, the corporation was able to work out an agreement with Medical Missionaries to have specialized care provided in the CNMI.

Medical Missionaries is a volunteer group of more than 200 doctors, nurses, dentists, and others who work to improve the health of the poorest of the poor in the U.S. and throughout the world. They provide medical care, medical supplies, clothing, and food to the areas they serve.

“Medical Missionaries were provided in Dermatology and Otolaryngology, allowing patients to be treated by these specialists with minimal cost to CHCC,” Muña said.

She cited a life-saving heart procedure the Commonwealth Health Center’s own physicians performed in October last year—a first for the hospital and the CNMI. In that procedure, a device known as a transvenous pacemaker was implanted on a patient who was awaiting transfer off island for placement of a permanent pacemaker.

“Although a transvenous pacemaker is not a new technology, it is certainly new to the CNMI. The patient developed a condition known as a third degree heart block in which the natural pacemaker for the heart no longer worked and the hear rate slowed to life threatening levels. This option reduced health risks of transferring the patient compared to risks associated by placing pads on the chest and back and delivering electrical shocks 60 to 80 times per minute,” Muña said.

Another innovative way that CHC is looking at is performing cardiac testing procedure.

“This has allowed CHC to more accurately determine what the patient needs in the way of further intervention and expedites the delivery of appropriate care to our patients,” she said.

Muña said that emergency specialized surgeries were also provided at the hospital when it was both feasible and more cost-effective to bring in a physician from Guam.

“A neurosurgeon performed an emergency service to a patient who was neurologically intact but with an expanding epidural hematoma that would have likely died or suffer permanent impairment. Orthopedic surgeries were also performed during emergencies by a Guam orthopedic surgeon and by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon from the Shriner’s Hospital for Children,” she said.

Muña noted that CHC has the capability of providing treatment in gastroenterology and significantly provides savings in medical referral funds.

As of now, recruitment is ongoing for specialists in orthopedic surgery, cardiology, otolaryngology, and oncology.

“Of course, there are funding challenges as these specialties are ranked as the most highly paid specialties but, with innovation, CHCC is committed to making these specialties available for our patients while ensuring we still maintain standards and ensure quality in recruitment efforts,” Muña said.

Jayson Camacho | Reporter
Jayson Camacho covers community events, tourism, and general news coverages. Contact him at

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