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CNMI plans to hire doctors from RP

More GARAPAN, Saipan – The US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is planning to hire doctors from the Philippines and other countries to help solve the shortage of physicians at the government-run Commonwealth Health Center (CHC).

On Sunday, Governor Benigno R. Fitial said he will put the CNMI Department of Public Health under a state of emergency to allow the hiring of doctors from outside the US mainland and Canada.

The state of emergency declaration is expected to be issued this week.

Cardiologists and nephrologists will be among the specialists to be hired directly from the Philippines and other foreign countries.

“We will hire based on necessity," said Fitial, who flew to Manila two weeks ago.

Currently, CHC is relying on a US-based headhunters firm for $25,000 per doctor hired from the US and Canada to recruit physicians.

But the number of physician hires is still short of meeting the demands of the CNMI.

CHC is one of the components of DPH, which also include the Community Guidance Center and the Division of Public Health.

Most of the nurses working at DPH are from the Philippines.

Doctors at DPH are hired only from the US mainland and Canada based on the policy of the CNMI Medical Profession Licensing Board and due to US Medicaid and Medicare requirements.

But the governor said the hiring outside the US and Canada will be a “temporary fix" to the doctor shortage at the only hospital in the CNMI.

Fitial said it is interesting to note that DPH can't hire specialists from the Philippines but it regularly sends CNMI patients to Manila for treatment and other medical care.

Acting Health Secretary Pete Untalan also said CHC's choice is limited when it comes to hiring physicians.

Although CHC regularly refers some patients to the Philippines for treatment, the CNMI cannot hire doctors from that country due to the standards and requirements mandated by the US federal government, he said.

CHC, which receives Medicare and Medicaid funding, is required to hire US-trained doctors.

The CNMI, a US territory, also relies on doctors hired from the US mainland and Canada because it only has a handful of local physicians and many of them work at private clinics.

Most of the 32 doctors that CHC currently employs, including part-time and visiting physicians, are from the US and Canada.

While DPH recruits doctors all year round, prospective physicians are discouraged by the uncompetitive salary offered by the CNMI government as a result of declining revenues and resources.

The lack of doctors at DPH is being augmented by services from private clinics and physicians.

With the US federal takeover of CNMI immigration set for Nov. 28, DPH said it has been receiving inquiries from off-island doctors willing to work in the CNMI.

These potential physicians may come to the CNMI through the J1 visa waiver category, which will allow them to work in underserved areas in the US with their families.

At present, foreign doctors who go to US medical schools and are trained in US-accredited facilities have to go back to their countries and serve there for a number of years.

Without the visa waiver program, physicians must wait for three to four years before they could work elsewhere.

The CNMI, which is home to some 10,000 overseas Filipino workers and Filipino-Americans, is only about three hours away from Manil REad the original article here


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