An interesting article appeared in the Saipan Tribune today (8-27-08) entitled, “CHC Belies Closure of In-House Pharmacy.” In this article, legal counsel Alex Gorman, speaking on behalf of Public Health Secretary Kevin Villagomez, confirmed that the inpatient pharmacy is “fully operational and has never been closed.” Now I don’t know if you believe everything you read in the paper, but since the pharmacy staff is prohibited from giving their side of the story, I would like to set the record straight. Because of current staffing shortages, since August 16, the pharmacy has indeed had to close on weekends. According to reliable sources, on weekends there is no pharmacist present to serve the hospital’s needs and no on-call pharmacy service. In my humble opinion, this is a very dangerous situation and one that potentially compromises patient care in the most severe manner.
It is true, the nursing supervisor does have access to the pharmacy, but this is not an ideal situation. In the U.S. mainland, nursing supervisors have access to the pharmacy when it is closed, and only enter in times of emergency. However, they are trained to mix and prepare medications, and have access to pharmacy consultation by phone at all times. The nursing supervisor is supposed to cover only for brief periods of time (usually only a few hours). This is definitely not the case at CHC, where the nursing supervisor would now be expected to fulfill pharmacy functions for 2 days straight! Add to this all the other responsibilities a nursing supervisor has and one can easily see that she is really being spread too thin. This is fertile ground for medication errors, some of which may have fatal consequences! Also, because the pharmacy is closed on weekends, reliable sources state that the pharmacy staff is forced to premix solutions to cover the 2 days they are closed, when ideally these solutions should be mixed daily due to stability and sterility issues.
Another very serious concern, according to my sources, is that one of the pharmacists will be leaving in October and the other has no contract to continue working in the pharmacy (thanks to the Governor’s veto on lifting salary caps). For a hospital that provides care for some very critically ill patients (whose drug therapy needs may change from hour-to-hour), it is imperative that it has qualified pharmacists to provide care on a daily basis. After all, how would you feel if the Emergency Room was only open Mondays through Fridays?