Doctor shortage at DOC may soon come to an end

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Department of Corrections (File photo)

The decades-long doctor shortage at correctional facilities in Guam may be coming to an end after the island’s Corrections Department became the newest certified National Health Service Corps (NHSC) site in the Pacific Region.

The certification facilitates the agency’s ability to recruit and hire qualified NHSC primary care and behavioral health care providers to serve the institution’s more than 700 inmates and detainees.

“With this certification, Guam will have another tool to address our longstanding medical personnel shortage. While we continue to tackle Guam’s struggles with recruitment and retention of qualified medical personnel, as an NHSC site, the Department of Corrections (DOC) will be able to improve the quality and access to care for their population,” said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero.

As a newly certified site, the Guam DOC will be included on a list of NHSC-approved service sites. The certification gives the agency access to more than 1,500 qualified health professionals participating in the NHSC Loan Repayment, Scholarship, and other Loan Repayment Programs. The NHSC program is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“The National Health Service Corps builds communities by helping to increase personnel in areas with limited access to healthcare. Just last year, we announced the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center’s approval as an NHSC site. Through this designation, we hope to address problems that have plagued our island for too long,” said Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio.

“DOC is very excited and appreciative of this momentous occasion. For so long, DOC has lacked the resources to provide ALL the necessary health care to its population. The certification is a milestone for DOC’s future,” said DOC Director Joseph Carbullido. “On behalf of the Governor of Guam, Lourdes Leon Guerrero, and the Lt. Governor of Guam, Josh Tenorio, we would like to thank the Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) and all those involved in making this certification possible,” added Carbullido.

Securing this NHSC site certification involved technical assistance from PIHOA and its Pacific Basin Primary Care Office Office. Primary healthcare access in the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPIs) has long been a focus of the organization. Since 2009, PIHOA has been facilitating access to qualified primary health professionals and services in the region.

The Pacific Islands Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) is a non-profit organization that is led by and represents the collective interests of the Ministers, Secretaries, and Directors of Health of the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPIs). The organization’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of USAPI communities by providing, through consensus, a unified credible voice on health issues of regional significance.

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