• By Pacific island Times News Staff

A $5 million windfall proposed for Guam Memorial Hospital

Bill by Speaker B.J. Cruz would tap tax amnesty funds

Additional revenues generated from this fiscal year’s Tax Amnesty program will go to the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority as soon as next month—under new legislation introduced by Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz Thursday.

Bill No. 329-34 (COR), as requested by the Bureau of Budget and Management Research, authorizes an appropriation of $5,000,000 to GMHA to help subsidize its operations for FY 2018 and correct deficiencies recently identified in the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services report, which resulted in GMH losing its accreditation.

The measure was introduced following a public hearing held by the appropriations chairman on the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget bills. During the hearing, BBMR Deputy Director Lester Carlson informed the Committee on Appropriations and Adjudication that a separate appropriation bill authorizing $5 million out of the $30 million revenue generated from the Tax Amnesty program would help ensure that the funding gets to the hospital as soon as possible.

Gubernatorial candidates, however, said the GMH crisis requires solutions other than funding.

Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. said giving GMH more money will not guarantee the problems will go away. Former senator, Lou Leon Guerrero, reiterated her call for Gov. Eddie Calvo to declare a state of emergency for GMH.

“It’s easy to look at the tragedy of the Guam Memorial Hospital’s loss of accreditation and think that pouring more money into the failing institution’s bank accounts will save the day. But the reality is that our hospital has been operating in crisis mode for decades. We’ve borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars on the bond market to get the hospital through critical times while failing to implement long term solutions and placing back-breaking debt on our children,” said Aguon, a gubernatorial candidate.

He recalled that when the hospital received Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations accreditation eight years ago, for the first time in nearly 30 years, it wasn’t money that bailed the hospital out, but rather a change in leadership and a new bipartisan commitment to change how things at the hospital were run: less interference from the executive branch and more support from the legislative branch for critical program initiatives, modern operational ideas and a general understanding of the need to move forward out of the dark ages.

“Today the executive branch continues to blame a lack of funding support from the legislature as the reason GMH lost accreditation and still believes that tax payers should shoulder the burden of years of mismanagement with heavier taxes. And then, adding insult to injury, a fellow democrat gubernatorial candidate wants to supply the same executive leadership that lost accreditation in the first place with even more power than they have now,” Aguon said. “We can’t keep letting the wealthy and powerful give each other blank checks to our bank accounts. We – the hardworking middle class – have got to take back control.”

Aguon is urging the governor to appoint a new non-political Board of Directors with credentials and experience in policy and management; bring in a third party firm with a proven track record in turning public hospitals around.

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Lou Leon Guerrero, a registered nurse and also a candidate for the top political post, urged Calvo “to mobilize all government resources to get GMH back on track to reacquiring accreditation and maintaining CMS certification.”

In her letter, Leon Guerrero stated, “As you know, I was on the GMH Board in 2010 when, after 26 years as an unaccredited hospital, GMH finally secured accreditation from the Joint Commission. It was a proud moment for everyone on the hospital team and I believe for all our people because it served as solid proof that seemingly intractable problems do not have to remain as they are and with a united effort we can change things for the better.”

Leon Guerrero also emphasized the need to restore public trust noting, “We are way past the point where assurances that this problem is being handled will in any way carry with it the credibility necessary to secure the support of our people. Real leadership needs to be exercised if we are to bring together those crucial components that were essential in obtaining Accreditation in 2010 namely, a focused hospital team given the necessary resources, public support and confidence in the course of action taken, and the backing of the broadest elements of our government.”

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