The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force has received its second approval from the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of the Interior to upgrade the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp’s reverse osmosis system and for the acquisition of steam and low temperature sterilization systems.
The approved retrofitting and specialized equipment totaled $396,830, which represents 9.82% of the total grant award of $4,042,585.00. Cumulatively, OIA has approved the use of $884,012, or 21.87% of the total grant award to the CNMI.
“The multiple acquisition of the systems and upgrade signify a linear progression in improving and hardening the CHCC’s access to safe, potable water and ensuring that reusable surgical instruments and personal protective equipment are cleaned, aseptic, and sterile before official use. It will also improve and harden infection reduction systems at the CHCC facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections,” said task force chair Warren F. Villagomez.
Under the CNMI Territory Action Plan, CNMI leadership has set out a path of planning to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the Marianas.
The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force and CHCC have prioritized several projects to address the critical needs of the hospital to treat COVID-19-related illnesses. The CTAP is led by CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña and special assistant for Homeland Security & Emergency Management Gerald J. Guerrero. Other key members of the planning committee include representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, key management and physicians from CHCC, the Office of the Governor, the Public Assistance Office, and the Office of Grants Management and State Clearinghouse.
“The overall goal of this project is the improvement of standard quality health care at CHCC through the delivery and installation of a new R.O. system and new, reliable medical equipment to ensure rapid and routine sterilization between surgical cases and appropriate terminal cleaning application to equipment used during this COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We thank OIA for their support during this critical time,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
The medical equipment will further assist CHCC reach a level of compliance per regulations under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It will address both sections under §482.41 Condition of Participation: Physical Environment and §482.51 Condition of Participation: Surgical Services.
“During the pandemic, proper sterilization is a must in order to ensure the highest standards of practice in surgical services including maintaining and preventing health care-associated infections, especially surgical site infections caused by bacteria or viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2. The acquisition of these sterilization equipment will further reduce delays in surgical operations of patients at CHCC. To gain momentum in reducing the spread of COVID-19 infection and other illnesses, CHCC needs to ensure that the water and facility equipment used for the emergency or operating rooms meet CMS standards,” said Muña.
“The CHCC Operating Room critically needs the low temperature sterilization system for the decontamination and reuse of N95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic period. On April 9, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for use of low temperature sterilization equipment for the decontamination of N95 or N95-equivalent respirators for single-user reuse by health care personnel to prevent exposure to pathogenic biological airborne particulates, especially if an insufficient supply of masks is present. The CNMI needs to be prepared and ready should we experience a large spike in patients testing positive for the virus, especially as restrictions continue to be lifted and with the increased number or resumption of inbound of flights” said Deleon Guerrero.
Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios expressed their gratitude to OIA for the approval in federal funds and for the tireless efforts by first responders and medical workers in working to improve facility conditions at the Commonwealth Health Center and the overall health standards for the CNMI community.
“We need to remain steadfast and vigilant to handle this virus. At the same time, we are ensuring accountability and transparency of these federal dollars from OIA,” said Torres.
Recovery administrator Angel A. Demapan said that OIA had recently requested an administrative provision requiring that a sub-recipient agreement be formulated to allow for the proper pass-through of funds between the CNMI government and CHCC. This would allow for the proper monitoring of funds provided and would ensure accountability.
“With the agreement in place, the disbursements of funds to CHCC will occur in a more prompt manner,” added Demapan.
The next priority project for the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force is to harden and improve CHCC’s facilities through the acquisition of a mobile x-ray system capable of further diagnosing and detecting COVID-19 in symptomatic patients’ lungs. (PR)