OPINION | Permanently remove political control from Guam Memorial Hospital management

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HAGÅTÑA  — The present issues with Covid-19 that are facing the island have brought many weaknesses in our government to the surface.

Weaknesses that have existed for years, but which otherwise would have gone unaddressed and unnoticed by the general population.

One of the most recent issues are the problems at Guam Memorial Hospital as it relates to the recent release of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid report and the deaths associated with the same. The report brought out some terrible weaknesses at the hospital at the worst possible time.

It did not, however, touch on so many other inherent structural and management weaknesses that exist.

For this writer, it also raised the question of why there has been such public silence on the part of the governor relative to the offer by the U.S. Navy for assistance in the form of the mobile hospital units (capable of numerous negative pressure rooms) that were offered by Rear Adm. John Menoni, basically for simply asking.

Acceptance of the admiral's offer would take a significant load off the shoulders of the existing hospital and staff relative to Covid-19 patients.

It would also bring potential closure to one of the primary reasons for holding the majority of the island business community hostage in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1.

Guam Memorial Hospital has been plagued by political interference for as long as I have lived on Guam (since 1968). Those problems started with the old GMH, continued through to the Catholic Medical Center and up to and including GMH today.

Community hospitals are rarely, if ever, profitable. They traditionally require some form of ongoing support from the taxpayers and local government.

The best-run local hospitals are normally privately managed and even then, require ongoing taxpayer financial support in order to be properly maintained and operated in line with CMS and Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations guidelines.

Fortunately for Guam, a recent recommendation from the Army Corps of Engineers recommended the replacement of the existing hospital. This is something that has been discussed for far too long with little to no forward movement.

Some creative efforts using the Corps assessment of the existing hospital in combination with seeking assistance through the Stafford Act may well afford Guam the opportunity to build a badly needed new hospital facility.

This is the same act that apparently brought recent Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to Guam for the extension of employment assistance to far too many of our citizens in the civilian community who are currently unemployed or underemployed.

They may even look to building that hospital in the area of the University of Guam, and that would lend itself to possibly making the new hospital a potential teaching facility and, as such, eligible for further federal funding for Guam and the region.

Guam Sen. James C. Moylan has introduced Bill 305-35 to authorize the Board of Trustees of the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority to prepare a request for proposals for a performance management contract in the management of Guam Memorial Hospital.

Whatever is done, moving forward we must permanently remove political control from the management side of the existing Guam Memorial Hospital and ensure that it is incapable of creeping back into any new facility that is built for the people of Guam.


Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of media organizations on Guam and Hawaii, former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia, and a longtime business and civic leader on Guam.

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