Musical chairs: Yap reshuffles health agency seats amid hospital crisis
By Joyce McClure
In what seems like a game of musical chairs, Yap’s Department of Health Services has unexpectedly seen the return of Deputy Director Dominic Taruwemai to the position of acting director.
Taruwemai’s reappointment follows Aileen Tareg’s resignation on April 18 after two weeks on the job when she refused to sign letters of termination for 30 nurses and three doctors involved in the mass walkout.
Members of the Yap Medical Association attempted to meet with Gov. Jesse Salalu to discuss their concerns over low compensation and benefits.
Upon being refused a meeting, the medical staff handed in letters of resignation.
However, Taruwemai did not accept their resignations and they returned to work upon Tareg’s arrival.
On April 20, Taruwemai issued termination letters to the 33 healthcare workers.
Salalu announced Taruwemai’s reappointment during an April 19 meeting with his cabinet “to inform them of [the] new issue and be updated on developments relating to the emergency development,” according to a press release from the state’s Media & Protocol Division dated April 20.
After the announcement of his return, Taruwemai informed Salalu and the cabinet members that the hospital now has four permanent doctors in addition to two who did not go on strike; and two temporary doctors who responded to the FSM national emergency declaration issued by President David Panuelo on April 5.
In addition, 21 nurses, “an increase from a previous low number after the strike,” are now working at the hospital. Some of the nurses are also temporary, having been flown in to replace those who have now been terminated.
A press release from the Yap government also announced that Dr. Alex Tara has been named chief of staff at the hospital “and is closely working with every available medical personnel at hand to restore health services back to normal."
Taruwemai further reported that Dr. Mandela Bodunrin, former chief of staff who left due to a family emergency prior to the current hospital crisis, is “off-island but ready to return and is awaiting the next repatriation flight.”
Taruwemai had held the acting director position for 90 days prior to Tareg's return to the position she held until Sept. 1, 2021 when she was forced to resign by then Gov. Henry Falan and then Lt. Gov. Salalu.