Feb. 25, 2004 In an effort to ease the territory's shortage of health care workers, various government agencies and departments are coming together to develop the V.I. Healthcare Workforce Training Institute.
Juel Molloy, chief of staff for Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, said Wednesday that all programs to train health care workers will be done through the University of the Virgin Islands.
"We need a full-fledged health care education program," said Molloy, who heads the local team charged with developing the institute.
While UVI currently offers associate and bachelor's degrees in nursing, the program stops there. There is no program for home health aids, which Molloy said is one of the territory's most pressing needs. With such a program, Molloy said, more people could remain at home rather than be institutionalized.
Molloy suggested that people involved in the Human Services Department's Welfare-to-Work program would be good candidates for this program. After certification as a home health care aid, they could advance further up the health care career ladder.
However, she acknowledged that the program would have to be sold to potential applicants. "There has to be an educational effort," Molloy said.
Additionally, if the territory had enough health care workers to staff programs, fewer people would have to leave the Virgin Islands for care.
"We send so much money out of the territory," Molloy said.
She expects the program to be operating by the start of the next fiscal year in October. "It's on a fast track," she said.
Officials from the Departments of Health, Labor and Human Services, UVI and the V.I. Medical Institute, as well as Molloy and Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, met this week with Region 2 Medicare and Medicaid officials to begin work on the program. Representing the federal government were James T. Karr, who serves as director for the Region 2 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; the centers' chief medical officer Dr. Nilsa Gutierrez; and national Medicare and Medicaid policy point person Rich Holligan.
"This is a win-win situation for the Virgin Islands, a chance to totally restructure the efficiency and effectiveness of health care delivery to Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries and perhaps in other much needed areas," Richards said.
Richards sent out the press release announcing the institute's formation in his stead as acting governor. He said that as insurance commissioner, Medicare service and outreach are part of his statutory responsibility.
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