Few if any medical doctors have a taste for being cast as villains and the physicians at Guam Memorial Hospital are no exception to the rule. A harshly worded legislative resolution by long time health committee chair Sen. Dennis G. Rodriguez Jr. brought this into sharp focus Monday as GMH physicians and other staff vented to local media.
The Rodriguez resolution calls for creation of a special investigating committee, "authorized to investigate the administration and management of the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority concerning alleged coercion and/or undue pressure of GMHA employees incident to GMHA's modernization program, funding, and accreditation; the providing of alleged false information to Members of I Mina′Trentai Kuâttro Na Liheslaturan Guâhan during official legislative proceedings regarding GMHA on January 22, 2018..."
Said Dr. Vicente A. Duenas: "It's frustrating to see the twisted interpretation of retention, recruitment and hire of critical physician services without the proper context and analysis. This is an example of political distraction to confuse and conflate the bigger funding issue at our hospital and that's the unfunded mandate to treat all patients who come to our door without regard of ability to pay and that's to the tune of $30 to $40 million dollars a year."
Dr. Duenas accused legislators of "putting blinders on" and refusing to address the needs of the hospital.
In turn, Dr. Larry Lizama, who has been involved in recruiting for staff for years felt personally targeted and under attack.
"We have promised the community, I have promised the community that I will deliver better health care here at GMH. That's the only promise I've committed to. I promised the nurses and staff of this hospital that I will get you doctors who will support patient care so that there is no delay, no harm to patients that are in our hospital."
Offering a long litany of GMH accomplishments, Dr. Lizama maintained, "There are no grounds for this investigation." He has offered to provide sworn testimony to Sen. Rodriguez on the question of whether he has done anything wrong. He said the controversy will damage recruiting of physicians and other staff.
The initial refusal of GMH to provide the legislature with the results of a Joint Commission's negative review of its operations, threatening its accreditation, is apparently the source of the animosity now boiling over.
The angry physicians have continued to take the position that the findings of the Joint Commission should be resolved internally, essentially, 'provide us the money we need and we'll run the hospital.'
"I don't think that's the Senator's responsibility," said Dr. Duenas. "His responsibility is to look at the overall hospital needs, the unfunded mandate that they've given us. We will correct those non-compliance issues and when we are complete, and it has not been completed, we will share, with the public and with the senator, the positive changes and the positive improvements that we're going to be making."