‘We can never be too careful’

Posted on Nov 04 2020

The official opening of the Alternate Care Site at Kanoa Resort and its handover to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. means the CNMI will be “ready for anything.”

That’s the sentiment of Esther Muña, CHCC chief executive officer, to underscore the importance of the Torres-Palacios administration’s handover of the ACS to CHCC last Oct. 28, 2020.

Muña has been reading about how hospitals around the world don’t have enough rooms for patients, which leads them to place beds outside hospitals to accommodate the surge of COVID-19 infections. This is what Muña said she wants to avoid.

Muña hopes the CNMI will never have to use the ACS, which was built to accommodate a potential surge in COVID-19 infections in the Commonwealth. If ever that happens, though, Muña said that CHCC will be ready. She said their intentions for the ACS is for testing, isolation, quarantine, etc., in order to protect the community. This system is being touted as a means to “stop the spread.”

Muña said there are no talks right now on the topic of what will happen if the ACS isn’t ever used.

The facility will be managed by the staff of CHCC. Having the ACS, Muña said, means their staff will have the tools to combat COVID-19 infections. “Having the staff of CHCC take over means that they will make sure the health care services provided at the ACS meet standards, she said. That means the CHCC staff will ensure that there’s more than enough medical supplies, assisting in infection control, and helping in ways that they can. “It’s going to be the people. So the facility itself, being ready for those people to be there to do their job, in case of a surge or in case we (CNMI) need it, it’s basically ready for us to do that,” said Muña.

The ACS being the designated site for COVID-19 positive patients means CHCC will be able to separate non-COVID-19 patients and COVID-19 patients, and also know which staff is at the ACS. The intent is also to make sure that CHCC staff are also protected, Muña said.

As of Oct. 28, Muña stated that patients who are currently in isolation are in hotel rooms and not at the facility. “Thankfully, they’re not having symptoms. One of them did have symptoms, but basically has been treated, so they haven’t been really elevated to an acute care facility hospital facility,” said Muña.

That means that, as of now, the CNMI’s COVID-19 patients are still okay. If there is an acute care hospital need, which means that their underlying health conditions have deteriorated and they have worsened, then that’s when they are going to be moved to the ACS.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
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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