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AG, OPA: Legislature gave no info on misdeeds at Guam hospital

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — In September 2018, a legislative committee investigating allegations of corruption and mismanagement at the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority voted to end its work and send the information already gathered to the Office of Public Accountability and attorney general.

Now, as doctors continue to cite concerns with the hospital, it’s unclear what happened to that information.

The agencies have no record of the submission.

However, former Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, who co-chaired the committee, said his office did submit it.

Special investigative committee

The 34th Guam Legislature created a special investigative committee through a resolution adopted in June 2018, following high-profile legislative hearings that called attention to alleged wrongdoings by hospital management.

Rodriguez and Sen. Mary Torres co-chaired the committee, which had 120 days to complete its mission and $25,000 to spend on a licensed investigator.

The initiative was scrapped after no investigator contacted was willing to do the job.

The committee voted to submit its information to the OPA and AG for follow-up, rather than extend its deadline and increase the budget for the investigator.

At the center of its meeting table during that vote was a single white binder containing information on the GMHA.

A copy was also to be preserved for the 35th Guam Legislature.

The co-chairs were at the meeting, along with Sens. Joe S. San Agustin and William Castro, and former senator-turned-delegate, Michael San Nicolas.

Senator: Private eye was supposed to corroborate info

“The whole idea was to have a private investigative firm corroborate the information provided to us and then present this committee with their findings,” Rodriguez said at the time.

His office had gone to three different private investigators, Rodriguez said. Two of the firms signed contracts but later pulled out. Rodriguez said the investigators either cited a potential conflict of interest, or the limitations of the money or time budgeted.

The Guam Daily Post asked Joe R. San Agustin, acting executive director of the Guam Legislature, for documents that showed submission to the OPA, AG and federal authorities by the committee.

“After thoroughly searching files and emails with the clerk’s office at the Guam Legislature, and working with the attorney general’s office and the Office of Public Accountability, we have found no documentation from the GMHA Special Investigative Committee was filed with the Guam Legislature, Attorney General’s Office, nor the Office of Public Accountability,” Joe R. San Agustin replied.

He added that if there were any information emailed to another party, it would have gone through Rodriguez’s official email domain.

But the domain was closed in January 2019, barring the retrieval of email copies.

Rodriguez said he recalled his office making the submission and would look for the documentation.

Doctors are still calling for an investigation

Meanwhile, there have been more calls for an investigation into the hospital’s operations.

Dr. James Last, a 24-year emergency room veteran, called on the Legislature and FBI to investigate complaints of poor management, conduct a financial audit and look into the public hospital’s use of federal funds.

Dr. Samuel Friedman, of Guam Cancer Center, said there had to be more doctors calling for an investigation.

“And this is part of the problem,” Friedman said, explaining that doctors here are “getting paid more here than they’d be getting in the mainland. And they’re very happy to keep the status quo.”

Another doctor, orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Jerone Landström, said doctors at GMH are essentially being paid twice. He said these doctors get paid for being on call regardless of whether they are actually called in. However, a number of those contracts also allow doctors to collect the fees for their services — on top of what they’re paid for being on call.

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