Setting up an oncology practice from scratch can already be a daunting task. But factor in setting up the practice in a remote location, for a vulnerable population, and with few resources, and many physicians would run the other way. But not Dr. Peter Brett.
After relocating to Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in 2019, experienced oncologist Dr. Brett had his work cut out for him. To build the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC) Oncology Center, he worked tirelessly with ASCO Practice Consulting Services and an existing staff of nurses and pharmacists.
After operating his own private oncology practice in Northern California for more than two decades, Dr. Peter Bretthad all of the experience necessary to make the CHCC Oncology Center a success. But unlike in California, Dr. Pete Brett faced very specific challenges in the CNMI.
Prior to Dr.Peter Brett’s arrival, there was no oncology team at the CHCC. He knew that he could build a team of clinical providers that could effectively serve patients, but he also faced the reality that many residents of the CNMI are very poor. With either no health insurance or Medicaid only, making the Oncology Center financially viable was another challenge.
With a focus on accuracy and safety, the pharmacy staff was trained extensively on chemotherapy ordering, inventory control, mixing, labeling, and delivery to the nurses. The nurses were then trained on proper delivery of treatment, as well as clear documentation. The finance department received its own training on making sure the hospital purchased drugs correctly, billed for drugs and services correctly, captured all appropriate charges, and followed up with payers to make sure drugs and services were paid for.
With a trained staff in place, Dr. Peter Brett could address the financial viability of the Oncology Center. His ASCO consultant was able to put Dr. Brett in touch with pharmaceutical foundation support to provide discounted or free drugs for his patients.
Since the inauguration of the CHCC Oncology Center in 2020, Dr. Peter Brett has continued to expand the Center’s offerings, adding patient navigation and palliative care programs.
Most recently, the Oncology Center has added a free cancer screening and prevention program for all residents. This includes screening mammograms, pap smears, HPV testing, FIT tests, and low-dose screening CT chest, entirely free of charge.
Now, the CHCC Oncology Center treats cancer patients all day, every day. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted cancer treatment medicines are all administered to CNMI residents without sending them off-island. Even simple surgeries can be performed by Dr. Brett and his team.
Because the Oncology Center operates in such a small community (roughly 55,000 residents in Saipan), many of the staff make themselves available after hours by phone, and to make house calls. This level of personalized care is unique in an age when many doctors are overwhelmed and patients begin to feel like one of many.
The staff at the CHCC works hard to create continuity of care, even when patients are referred off-island for radiation therapy or complex cancer surgeries. All coordination and referrals are handled by the CHCC staff so that patients can be focused on getting better.
In the past three years, the CHCC Oncology Center has accomplished so much for the residents of Saipan, making cancer treatment accessible, affordable, and readily available to the population. Dr. Pete Brett has spearheaded all of this good work and continues to show up each day for his adopted community. He is passionate about his work and educating the CNMI community on how to best care for their health.
Learn more about Dr. Peter Brett and his work in Saipan in this recent news article.