CHCC to still seek permanent status for its nurses

By Lori Lyn Lirio

(File photo) CHCC CEO Esther Muna Photo ©

COMMONWEALTH Healthcare Corporation Chief Executive Officer Esther Muña said the CHCC will continue to secure improved status for its nurses and hospital staff even after the CNMI Workforce Act has passed the hurdle in the U.S. Congress.

During the proclamation signing of the CNMI Nurses Week, Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres reported that the U.S. Congress passed the H.R. 5956 or CNMI Workforce Act. He said it is now forwarded to the Senate while expressing hope that for the next couple weeks, it will be enacted into law.

In an interview, Muña said the application for employment-based visa and H1B visa for the hospital staff is ongoing and will continue. She welcomed the passage of the workforce bill.

The CHCC, according to Muña, is using both pathways –EB visas and CW permits.

“CW permits are unstable and the EB visas take a while, but we need both. It means we are one step in to giving stable status for the hospital staff,” she said.

She also said most of the hospital staff’s CW permits are expiring on Sept. 30.

“If they don’t have this, they will have to leave.”

Earlier, Muña said CW petitions for 111 nurses, including nurse managers and supervisors were not approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS.

The CHCC has filed petitions for its 167 employees’ CW permits.

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About 145 employees are healthcare professional workers. Out of 167, only 19 employees were approved. Two staff were approved in CHCC corporate quality; three laboratory staff; two in control quality; four in dialysis section; five pharmacists; one ultrasound sonographer; one radiologists; one nurse in Rota.

She said the CHCC has been working on transitioning nurses with CW permits to EB2 status.

“It is just unfortunate that the financial situation at the CHCC and the struggle of the CMS accreditation were causing the delay of applying the EB visas for the staff,” she said.

Muña has been communicating with the staff and updating them of the support the CHCC is doing.

“Now that we are in a better situation, [securing improved status for our nurses] is one of our top priorities. It has always been our desire to get them permanent status in the CNMI,” she said.

She said the passage of the H.R. 5956 gave the nurses a reassurance.

“It is important for them because they are providing patient care and you want them to be in the positive mood to be able to know that they shouldn’t have to be worrying about their status when they are taking care of the patient,” she added.

Susan De Vera has been for 28 years and this is her home. She is also getting process of improved status.

“It is always unfortunate that it is about the financial, and it costs money and because many challenges.”


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