The 2018 Pacific Century Fellows-Marianas Chapter cohort had a whirlwind tour of CNMI’s health facilities during its June session held last June 13.
First stop was the Hardt Eye Clinic & Diabetes Education Center where the fellows learned from Dr. Don Hardt and nurse Judith Kim how the high rate of diabetes on island is putting a strain on the local economy.
Hardt said he estimates that the government and private companies lose up to $200 million a year due to the non-communicable disease.
Kim suggests a lifestyle change like eating a balanced diet and plenty of exercise could help manage diabetes.
The fellows then drove down to the Kagman Community Health Center where they met with the center’s chief executive officer Vince Castro and chief medical officer Dr. Katherine Elston.
Both officials said KCHC being a Federally Qualified Health Center guarantees that its patients are billed significantly less for medical services compared to the Commonwealth Health Center and private clinics on island.
Castro and Elston also emphasized that KCHC is “uniquely poised to help the indigent population and reduce the burden on CHC.”
For example, the two said while a patient rushed to the emergency room of CHC will likely incur a $200-$400 bill, KCHC will only bill the patient as low as $40. A doctor’s appointment at KCHC would also only set patients back $5.
The KCHC officials said they hope to help open other FQHC clinics in Susupe, northern Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in the future.
A quick trip to the Community Guidance Center and lunch at Kanoa Resort was followed by a meeting with Systems of Care Wraparound coordinator Guadalupe Camacho and SOC social marketing coordinator Monissa Iguel. Systems of Care is the only children’s mental health clinic in the CNMI and its service is currently free.
The Hinemlu O’hala Para Enteramenti, or the H.O.P.E. Recovery Center, was the next stop for the 2018 PCF members. There, they listened to Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation Program special assistant Yvette Sablan on how promising the center has been in its first nine months of existence.
She said some 70 percent of its patients are from the CNMI Drug Court with the remaining population being walk-in patients.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. public information officer Samantha Birmingham-Babauta and Division of Public Health director Margarita Torres Aldan were the next speakers in the PCF’s whirlwind session.
Birmingham-Babauta said CHCC is currently busy transitioning its 150 or so CW healthcare professionals to more appropriate visas in preparation for the end of the CW program in 2019.
Aldan, for her part, said a large portion of the CNMI population having been diagnosed with NCDs is a big challenge for Public Health.
She said that’s why Public Health continues to call for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce obesity on the local population aside from enforcing health-related statutes like the smoke-free act.
The fellows concluded their June session with a tour of the Dialysis Clinic courtesy of its manager, Nikki Tudela Sablan.
A week earlier, the fellows joined Chinese University of Hong Kong-Shaw College students in a mixer at the Chambre Bar of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
Former chief of staff of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Matthew Deleon Guerrero, and local historian, Genevieve Cabrera, gave presentations about the CNMI economy and history, respectively.