Saipan suffers from lack of nurses

Image © andhrawishesh.com

SAIPAN is suffering from lack of nurses and it is aggravated by the current immigration policy of the United States government.

This was disclosed Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands Healthcare Corporation (CHCC) chief executive officer Esther

Muna during an interview with reporters. She explained that because nurses are not eligible for H1-B visa (a visa which allows US employers to hire foreign workers), the CHCC cannot petition nurses and therefore it could not ensure enough manpower for hospitals.

Nurses are a little bit complicated. They have to have a managerial position to be considered or they have to be a specialized nurse to be petitioned for H1-B visa,” she said.

In a bid to save their remaining manpower, Muna said the CHCC has already applied H1-B visas for their six employees which include a pharmacy manager, physical therapist, an infection and review coordinator and an epidemiologist.

CHCC CEO Esther Muna Photo © saipantribune.com

As of January, Muna added that the CHCC has started processing the filing of 15 of its employees for EB2 visas (an immigrant visa preference category for US employment-based permanent residency). She said they intend to do the same to the rest of 170 nurses and staff, who are on CW visas (a transitional workers visa which is good for a year).

EB2 visa, according to Muna, is a pathway to citizenship. She said for the 15 nurses physical therapist that they have processed for this application, the CHCC is spending about $35,000.

But again this process is taking a lot of time too because of the prevailing wage issue. The prevailing wage determination has to be made by the CNMI and it has to be requested to the U.S. Department of Labor,” Muna said.

We will put the money aside specifically for this venture because we will not going to take a risk again in the following year,” she said, adding that the hospital might spend half a million dollars to process the EB visa application to its nurses and staff.

In another development, Muna said 13 of the 18 nurses who were capped decided to stay for another week.

Muna said she is still trying to get hold of someone from the USCIS to clarify the issue of the receipt, which she said was the missing link that would validate the nurses’ stay for another 240 days while their CW is being processed.

I asked them to stay to confirm the receipt. As far as any of the gaps, I think we’ve done everything we can. But we cannot hold on to them. I even asked the USCIS we need to make a decision to decide for their lives,” she said.

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