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  • By Vincent Taijeron Akimoto, MD

Money can’t buy happiness

Back where I come from, a billion dollars buys a lot of good government services. This year, the governor intends to spend $1 billion to take care of the health, safety, and public education needs of our island’s 144,000 people who don’t have access to the supposedly unlimited financial resources of Guam’s military bases.

Back in 2011, much less than a billion dollars bought Joint Commission accreditation for the Guam Memorial Hospital. Earlier this year, GMH leaders were told, for the second time in six months, that our public hospital had widespread systemic patient safety violations and that GMH would imminently lose accreditation. Looks like a billion dollars can’t buy happiness or hospital accreditation in 2018.

The recent political spectacle featuring dueling tax increases by the Guam Legislature and Governor Calvo has revealed that GovGuam leaders are only truly happy if they can fund bloated payrolls.

Never mind paying for medicine and blood for dying GMH patients; never mind fighting fires and operating ambulance transport; never mind police patrolling the mean streets of Hagatna; never mind having clean schools that deliver an adequate education, the governor and your senators seem to think it’s cool if they just make a 32 hour per week GovGuam payroll.

But the math doesn’t make sense. If GovGuam’s basic services require personnel that collectively are paid approximately $15 million a month, then GovGuam is spending more than $15 million a month on people who do something else.

Why then, cut police, fire fighting, education, and hospital services first before cutting conspicuous, nonessential GovGuam expenditures like special project coordinators, deputy directors, GEDA, and GVB. Apparently, any politician who tries to cut GovGuam political patronage payroll expenditures would be committing political suicide.

None of this political theatre is funny. Someone is literally going to get hurt. Unfortunately, due to non-payment of GMH medical vendors and the imminent shortages of blood, oxygen, and critical medicines, someone in GMH may being getting hurt right now.

Funerals around the island in the next coming weeks will great places to assess the violence of the latest round of payroll politics. Orphaned children, extended families, and furious taxpayers can judge for themselves if all this ineffectual late night political posturing has contributed to the death of any poor patients at GMH. That, ladies and gentlemen, would be the definition of political manslaughter.

Hospital, police, and fire department leaders are ethically and morally bound to protect our island's public health and safety. The accelerating deterioration of government finances and services is a real and immediate threat to the lives of our people. Like co-pilots in airplane headed for a catastrophic terrestrial encounter, our civic leaders must be physically prepared to execute course correction. Insubordination is not recommended but may be demanded if the Captain has clearly jeopardized the safety of the passengers and crew.

GMH is mandated to care for everyone in a safe and competent environment regardless if you are rich or poor. This charitable mandate is especially necessary when we must choose whether to fund nonessential government activities or to give care to the poor. Our virtue as a loving island society is being put to the test with this current financial crisis. Shall we fund the necessities of GMH in order to truly care for the poor? Or will we rather continue the ruinous tradition of political patronage.

I say, let us break the bondage of payroll politics. Again, I say, let us immediately transfer the $30 million Tourist Attraction Fund for GMH operations. Give some of it to GPD, GFD, and DOE as well. If we are foolishly in the dire financial crisis that Adelup has painted, then GVB spending money on $400,000 parties for themselves won’t look too good right now, would it?

Let island media monitor and publicize GMH medication supply and service status daily. Let us insist that the Governor emergently fund necessary vendor payments to keep the hospital functional.

Let us be assured that GMH has established logistics and supply relationships with our sister hospitals to try and mitigate against any supply shortages. Let us demand that the Legislature give the GMH administration the necessary funds to transparently strive to regain national hospital safety standards. Finally, let us insist that GMH immediately fund and complete the long overdue $10 million renovation on the Obstetrics ward that Dr. Tom Shieh has heroically championed.

Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to

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