State of Emergency at Rota Health Center (Again)

March 19, 2011

This week Lt. Governor Eloy Inos declared another state of emergency for the Rota Health Center.  The "emergency" started a year ago when the CNMI government was made aware that the Rota (and Tinian) nurses were not being paid regularly or at all.

What has the CNMI government done? Not much, except to make excuses, shift blame and ignore the problem.

Like many employees in the CNMI, the Rota nurses are owed a lot of money.  They have not received wages since October 2010. The wages that they did receive over the last year were well below their contractual wages.

The crisis with the Rota Health Center is a result of irresponsible governmental decisions.

In most places in the world, declaring a "state of emergency" implies that immediate attention and action will be taken to fix the problem. However, when a  "state of emergency" is declared in the CNMI it is just that – a declaration.  No immediate resolution of the problem or crisis is usually forthcoming.

Inos, in his role as Acting Governor, stated that funds will be reprogrammed to pay the nurses. Will that solve the problem? In July 2007 Governor Fitial declared a "state of emergency" regarding the unpaid wages of nurses on Tinian and Rota.  He also ordered the reprogramming of funds to pay the nurses. The nurses were actually paid only a fraction of their contractual salary. Maybe the partial payment and promise of wages kept the nurses working, but the problem was never resolved and the "emergency" continues. It's time to look at real solutions instead of playing the shell game by shifting funds.

Meanwhile nurses on Saipan are still not receiving their contracted housing allowance.

Does this "emergency" account for the suffering that unpaid employees have endured for a year as they have had to find money to buy food and pay their bills in a place with no unemployment insurance and no social service or welfare agencies that provide assistance for unpaid non-citizens? No, it does not. In fact, the "emergency statement" appears to bypass the welfare of the cheated, unpaid employee/victims and focus the emergency on CNMI residents' needs:
“The CNMI faces an imminent threat of the disruption of critical medical services on the island of Rota due to the termination of services from the existing nursing services provider. The disruption of the provision of nursing services on the island of Rota poses a direct threat to the health and safety of the people,” said Inos in his declaration.
The U.S. and CNMI governments need to also acknowledge the serious emergency that exists for the unpaid nurses, and with all of the thousands of  unpaid CNMI foreign workers. These include unpaid employees of casino, hotel, poker rooms, water companies and more!

How many years should an employee have to endure months without pay or allowances? Maybe it is time for the nurses to cut their losses, sue to collect all of their back pay, and move on. There are many nursing jobs available in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada. These positions pay a much higher salary than what is being paid in the CNMI, provide excellent benefits, and quality living and working conditions.  Most positions will also lead to eventual citizenship and lack the uncertainty and hassle of CNMI regulations and non-enforcement of laws.


Anonymous said...

You're right. The emergency is not just for residents who need medical care, but for the NURSES! Even the Rota mayor ignored their emergency when he made statements to the press:
How callous and typical.

Anonymous said...

"There are many nursing jobs available in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada."

Nursing is no longer in demand as it was a few years ago. Nursing schools have expanded quite a bit in the last few years. In Saipan alone, there are 3 nursing schools. Some areas with large retirement communities are experiencing a shortage of nurses, however most are not.

New Zealand currently has a freeze on foreign nurses. The U.S. has over a 6 year wait for immigrant visas, and most U.S. hospitals cannot legally petition for the H1B visa. Australia is hiring however nurses will need a 7 on all parts of the ITELS and will have to take a bridging course for $15,000-$20,000 USD with no guarantee of a job. Canada also requires most nurses to take a bridging course and they are experiencing hiring freeses in most territories.

It is a shame that the nurses in Rota are not getting paid, however the CNMI needs to come to grips with the fact that it can no longer afford to pay BSN Registered Nurses to do jobs that medical assistants and CNA's can do. Dialysis centers in the U.S. have 1-2 R.N.'s and 25-30 medical asssitants. At Saipan Health Clinic and CHC you have all R.N.'s. You will never find BSN's in the mainland checking vitals, however in the CNMI, that's what many do every day. The CNMI should pay the necessary Registerd Nurses a higher fair salary and hire local medical assistants and CNA's to perform most of the hosptial and clinic duties.

Anonymous said...

3:13 Interesting. I know three Filipino nurses who were hired within the last three months. Two for the U.S. and 1 for Canada.

Anonymous said...

Be a nurse in new Zealand:

How to migrate to Canada:

Anonymous said...

The news on the street is that DOL is now undergoing the same type of shuffle as DOC and DPS. Kaipat is "resigning" and the majority of the top ranking staff are retiring. Not sure if Kaipat resignation was prompted by Inos as acting and therefore, whether Uncle Ben will reinstate her or if she too sees a sinking ship and is not willing to undertake the very important work of employment services and training of unemployed workers already in the CNMI. Her story is that she wants to go back to what she enjoys - music with her family. It would be nice to be rid of her public wailing regardless of the reasons for it. Good riddens.

Anonymous said...

The article talks about the 21,000 nurses (2007-2009)that immigrated to Britian to participate in the work study program where they are required to take a 2 year Bachelor of Science in Health before being allowed to practice vs. the 900 H1B visas (2007-2009) granted in the United States.

There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed BSN nursing graduates in the Philippines. The only opportunities available without shouldering additional schooling are usually in Saudi Arabia or UAE, where the pay is minimal, treatment is poor and rights are suppressed.

If your friends were Filipino citizens, I do not believe that they were able to immigrate to the U.S. or Canada as Registered Nurses in the past 3 months. They may be working in other fields, or attending classes, or were able to immigrate under family petitions.

CHC use to have a 50% voluntary turnover rate every year prior to 2005 when U.S. visas were stopped being available. I suspect there wer 0 voluntary resignations at CHC within the past year.

Please speak to the filipino nurses and find out what visa they received and what recruitment agency or hospital they used. I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of unemployed board passer nurses in the Philippines would like to know.

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting article at the New Zealand "The Press" website: "Filipinos miss out on jobs as NZ nurses"