Terri was asked to talk to a reporter from the Saipan Tribune about the work at the clinic. She was afraid she might say something wrong (one never knows...), but it turned out OK:
Saipan Tribune August 23, 2008
After losing doctor, Tinian health center holds firm
By Stefan SebastianBusiness Editor
TINIAN-After the resignation of the Tinian Health Center’s only doctor, its staff here have risen to the challenge of keeping the center in operation and are able to provide the treatment the island’s people need, a leading center official said in an interview Friday.
In July, Dr. Ronaldo Toledo resigned his post at the health center, the primary healthcare provider on Tinian, leaving it without a full-time doctor. The center is now searching for someone to replace him but Department of Public Health officials have said the loss of Toledo at the center will not diminish the level of its service.
Without a doctor, however, the burden of caring for Tinian’s sick has shifted onto the shoulders of its physician assistant, Terri Clawson, the center’s staff and its nurse practitioner.
"There’s an increased burden," said Clawson, after evaluating three patients in rapid succession. Yet the health center, she added, is still able to care for the public even after Toledo’s departure.
"It’s not a catastrophe. Our patients are being treated and treated appropriately.
"Physicians assistants, she noted, are trained in complex disciplines like surgery and internal medicine. Moreover, she said, a consultation with off-island doctors is a phone call away.
"We have every ability to call Saipan," said Clawson. "We’re fully functional. We’re seeing patients in the emergency room and we’re treating them."
Majority of the roughly 20 patients Clawson sees each day, including the seriously ill, she added, can receive the treatment they need on Tinian without any need to send them to Saipan. Yet some cases do require off-island attention, such as those requiring a ventilator-a tool the health center does not have-or certain bone fractures.
"It’s not an automatic decision that they go to Saipan," she said. "That decision is made based on what the resources are here to treat them.
"Transporting patients off Tinian requires either an airlift by helicopter or sending them on the inter-island ferry, she noted, a prospect that sometimes requires the center to keep a patient stable for long periods in order to get them aboard. And airlifts have become more complicated recently, she added, due to federal regulations that can restrict helicopter flights to Tinian at night. But in life-threatening emergencies, exceptions to those rules can be granted, she said.
Alexander Gorman, legal counsel for the Department of Public Health, said previously that doctors from Saipan would continue to go to Tinian Friday through Sunday until a replacement is found.