3 CORE volunteers answer hospital’s call for help

THREE members of the Community Outreach Recovery Effort were the first to answer the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation’s call for help as the islands’ lone hospital copes with a shortage of nurses.

The CORE volunteers are taking turns helping the Family Care Clinic perform clerical work and other non-medical tasks to help reduce the workload of its nurses.

“We used to have nine nurses. Last week, we were down to three, including myself,” said Abbys Mitchell, the clinic manager.

She said there was talk of shutting down the clinic because of the lack of nurses. “But if that happens, where will people go? The clinic is actually for prevention” she added.

She said Dr. Elizabeth Kohnen, the CHCC medical director, decided to get non-medical workers to perform clerical jobs.

Mitchell said they also thought of asking the doctors and physician assistants to do the initial patient checkup which is a nurse’s job.

The nursing shortage is the result of the federal CW cap that affected 18 CHCC nurses in July.

Mitchell, who is also CORE president, said when she asked her members if they were willing to volunteer their time at the family clinic, three said yes: Mami Ikeda, Grace Borggess and Patricia Kaipat.

Mitchell said CORE was established in Aug. 2015 right after Typhoon Soudelor hit the island.

It started with seven members who distributed water and relief goods and then extended medical care to survivors who could not go to the hospital because of financial hardship or lack of insurance.

Mitchell said the three CORE volunteers are very helpful at the family clinic.

“They are the ones picking up medication and laboratory results for the patients, calling patients to remind them of their appointments with the doctor, and transporting patients from one hospital area to another.

“They also organize our medicine and storage rooms.”

Mami Ikeda, CORE treasurer, spoke about her first day at the clinic.

“I felt so bad because I was not able to give much help. I felt bad about not being able to screen the patients because that should be done first. Before they see the doctors, patients have to be screened. There were only two nurses then handling the screening.”

Still, she helped bring in patients for triage and assisted the nurses in every way she could.

One of the family clinic nurses, Neneth Casalmo, said the situation has improved since the volunteers arrived. “We are short of nurses. We cannot just go and run errands because patients are waiting. When they started volunteering here, it made our work lighter. They are very efficient.”

Mitchell said they welcome more volunteers. “We can always find something to do for them like clerical work. Volunteers can be very useful provided they are utilized properly and trained properly.”

CORE vice president Patricia Kaipat said their group, too, screens their volunteers.

“We want to make sure that their hearts are really focused on serving the community. They should have a little bit of medical background too. We require commitment.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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