‘Test not recommended as job requirement’

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Posted on Sep 17 2020
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Despite the high demand for COVID-19 testing, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. does not recommend that employers make it mandatory for employees to get tested before reporting back to work.

According to Esther Muña, CHCC chief executive officer, COVID-19 is a test of time. That means that, even if you get tested today and the results are negative, you’re still at risk of becoming infected. In fact, the three W’s—wash your hands, wait at a distance, wear your mask—are the best preventive measures that employers can enforce with their employees, she added.

Muña also confirmed that the CHCC board has approved to increase the fee for a COVID-19 test from $50 to $300. Since there is a heavy reliance on getting tested, the CHCC board only felt that $300 is a reasonable amount to cover the cost of operation staff, from the collection of specimens to testing, Muña added.

The CHCC board actually approved increasing the cost of the test to $300 back in April. However, CHCC gave a discount and that pushed the cost down to $50. Since then, however, a lot of people who were going on non-essential travel were asking for COVID-19 testing and it was almost overwhelming for the CHCC staff, prompting CHCC to remove the discount and impose the full $300 fee.

The fee of $300 was also decided on what’s being sold at market value, which was $250 for just the test but not for the nursing part.

According to her, there has been an overwhelming number of requests to get tested from people who are making nonessential trips. She added that individuals should check with their destinations to confirm if they do need a test to enter. That way, it can lessen the burden for staff who are doing the tests.

Additionally, Muña stated that CHCC will only charge $300 if the test is not “medically necessary” and is not needed for contact tracing and surveillance. This type of testing requires more work, and will also need a doctor’s clinical judgment in order to move forward with testing, she said.

Muña explained that tests that aren’t clinically ordered by a doctor or through community-based testing are not reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On the other hand, community-based testing and clinically ordered tests will be reimbursable by the insurance company because there is a medical indication and diagnosis, said Muña.

“If there’s somebody who, if they think that they’ve been exposed, they can definitely have a conversation with the provider, and the provider will make that indication and make a decision whether to order the test,” said Muña.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that those who have not been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 do not need to be tested. According to the CDC official website, a negative test does not mean you will not contract an infection at a later time.

In the case of the 17 licensed practical nurses who may possibly exit the CNMI, Muña says that there a total of 26 registered nurses who are still under CHCC: 10 from the Northern Marianas College, seven from Korea, and nine from the Philippines.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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