Effective last Oct. 1, nurses on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota received above-market salary increases, which is now similar to what Guam is paying their nurses.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Esther Muña said the nurses’ salary increase is part of CHCC’s workforce response and hopefully will help them retain their nursing staff, instead of losing them to the U.S. territory.
“This salary increase will help us in the recruitment and retaining employees in the hospital. The increase will be able to convince people to come our way in the hospital and not Guam or anywhere else. That is why this is important,” she said.
“The salary increase is a plan to address the issues of the CW visa workers and the staff shortage. We are also working with the Northern Marianas College to identify how to make nursing graduates stay and start working for us,” she added.
According to Muña, CNMI nurses are not getting enough salary or not as competitive as Guam.
“Compare Guam and the CNMI, there is much difference. For nurses, it is very easy to say no to the CNMI and go to Guam. We realize that the CNMI has to be really convincing for people to stay,” she said.
“Obviously when nursing students graduate, sometimes they do not choose to work in CHCC. So one of the things we discussed was, for example, sometimes people do not like the salary base that we have that’s why we have a nursing shortage,” she added.
According the CHCC Human Resources officer Claire Ngirausui, the nurses will be classified under step 5 with retention of old benefits.
“Basically our pay scheme is in the same level as the government as we have step 1 to step 12. This increase will put them, the nurses, at the middle, step 5. Let’s say for staff nurse 2, earns about $34,000 a year before. With the increase, it will be elevated to $44,000 a year. That is a significant increase with the same benefits.”
In last week’s budget allocation, CHCC was given a little over $700,000. Muña said that the government is not paying for the salary increase.
“The government is not paying for the increase. Our decision was we were going to move forward but we need to come up with a consensus that says that this is something we can afford in the event the CNMI government does not give us the money. The salary increase is step 5 and if the government has given us more, we probably could’ve gotten to step 8,” she said.
The talks of salary increase have been in the works for the last three months. CHCC realizes that increasing the salaries is not enough. It has to be competitive.
“We’ve been in discussion with the nursing leadership to come up with a scale that is acceptable and one that is also considered as an incentive for them. We want to make sure that they are a part of this. This is not just our decision and not listening to what their needs are. It was their decision too and it was the best conversation we’ve had. Everyone was a partner, everyone was involved,” Muña said.
“We decided to meet halfway where we will be able to the give salary increase and at the same time, not pass the burden to our patients and the community,” she added.
The impact of the increase was calculated to have an additional cost to the hospital of $2 million to $3 million a year and the salary increase does not only affect the nurses but it will be across the board.
Ngirausui said they are also looking at performance- based increases by revamping CHCC’s policy on performance and the form itself.
“We are currently classifying all the positions into that paying scale. We have 665 personnel and we handle everyone. We have contract, limited terms, and then we have permanent. So we already did the salary increase for the nurses so now, everybody else will be included—Public Health, Centers for Disease Control, Kagman Community Health Center…” she said
“Our discussions with the work group, leadership team, financial team, and revenue team resulted to a decision that nurses will be involved to make sure that patients pay,” Muña said.
CHCC has come up with ways to increase and strengthen revenue. First, the hospital tasked the nurses to document every patient care given to capture charges so it can be billed, adjustment of Medicare and Medicaid so when the reimbursements come, CHCC will get the value of that cost at least to a higher level (looking at 50 percent increase in costs), the hiring of a charge master to be in charge of revenue centers, and increase in room rates.
According to Muña the increase does not only address the workforce issue but also enhance patient care.
“Our obligation is to be able to address patient care. Right now, if we are going to run a hospital, we have to protect patient’s safety and personnel safety. With this salary increase, we are able to make sure that we have the nurses,” she said.
By Bea Cabrera, Saipan Tribune
Share this news with friends!!!