By Lyn Lirio
THE Commonwealth Healthcare Center is giving job opportunities for local nursing students by reserving the vacancies for nursing position to Northern Marianas College students.
CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muña, who was the guest lecturer at Current Issues class at NMC on Wednesday, said they opted not to the hire nurses through H1-B visa adding that they are looking at the option of converting the hospital’s 80 nurses, who are on CW permits, to EB3 or employer’s based visa.
“This is our decision not to hire nurses through the H1B. It specifically says that if you are going to hire nurses on H1B, the employer has to make sure that they have a bachelor’s degree. The reason why we opted against it is because we are basically preserving the pipeline of NMC. If are going to require that everybody should have a bachelor’s degree then it means we are blocking the NMC students. The reality is we want to preserve that pipeline, preserve our local hires and at the same time also take care of the ones who have been here for a long time,” Muña explained to students.
She said the hospital has 117 workers who are on CW permits.
Currently, there are now eight hospital employees who have been converted to H1B visa, including pharmacist, physical therapist, infection and review coordinator, epidemiologist. She said the option for the nurses is to look for EB3, which she said takes a long while to process.
Muña said she is supporting US. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) S.2325 and U.S. Rep. Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s (Ind-MP) H.R. 4689. Both measures seek to extend the federal CW program for 10 years starting 2019, and increase the CW cap from 9,998 to 13,000 which will then be reduced by 500 a year.
“We are hoping that will happen. 2019 is just around the corner and I don’t think we can meet that [converting CW workers to EB3]. They will just have to go home. We are in support of that bill,” Muna told the students.
She said the measures will give the CHCC enough time to convert the nurses, who have been in the hospital and serving the community for a long time.
“I think it is safe to convert our nurses that we have now in EB3 visa while ensuring that we still have a job for nurses that are coming out of NMC,” Muña added.
Moreover, Muña also disclosed that she and Rose Pangelinan, CNMI Scholarship Office administrator, were discussing how to give some incentives to students who are pursuing a degree in nursing.
“We talked about incentives like loan repayment, students loan, giving a bonus if you sign a contract for us. That is one way to provide incentive,” she said.