Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has signed into law a bill that creates a scholarship program for students enrolled in the nursing program at the Northern Marianas College or other U.S. accredited institution.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) introduced Senate Bill 20-71, SS1, SD1, HD1 with Sens. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) and Justo S. Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) as co-authors.
S.B. 20-71 is now Public Law 20-73, which aims to fill the critical need for nurses at the Commonwealth Health Center. Most nursing positions at CHC has usually been filled with foreign hires.
The Commonwealth faced a nursing crisis in the middle of this year after the available slots for foreign workers in the Commonwealth became filled and not one of the hospital’s 111 nurses were chosen in the lottery for the 4,999 slots at stake.
The CNMI got relief after President Trump signed the NMI Workforce Act of 2018—introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP)—last July that increased the numerical cap to 13,000.
“The [CNMI] will always need qualified nurses to fill critical positions at the hospital and public health clinics. The purpose of this legislation is to establish a nursing school scholarship for 20 eligible students that aspire to obtain an associate of science in nursing degree at [NMC] or any other U.S. accredited institution,” said Torres in a statement.
“In exchange, the scholarship recipient must return to the [CNMI] and work at [CHC], Tinian Health Center, or Rota Health Center for a few years. The CNMI Scholarship Office will administer the nursing school scholarship consistent with the provisions of this legislation.”
Torres, early this year, said he is eager to sign the bill into law since healthcare is a critical component of the community. The new law provides financial assistance to local students to encourage them to take up a nursing degree to fill the CNMI’s healthcare needs.
Palacios’ parents were medical professionals that worked at the hospital.