Building a brand new medical facility is more prudent than fixing the Guam Memorial Hospital in a piecemeal fashion, according to Sen. Telo Taitague.
Tatitague is the author of Bill 5, which proposes to establish a commission or task force that would manage discussions, planning, and financing proposals aimed at developing a new public hospital facility. The bill was publicly heard in the legislature on Friday.
“Whether it’s a public-private partnership recommended previously by a legislative task force or a bond-borrowing proposal allowing GMH to build a new facility and transition accordingly – we need to take action soon rather than continuing to invest limited taxpayer funds in band-aid fixes,” Taitague said.
“Bill 5 recognizes all the hard work, time, and talents that have been put into building a new public hospital over many years – by proposing an organized approach to this critical issue affecting the quality of healthcare provided to our families. Going forward, decision makers must put aside political differences and agendas and work collaboratively to make a safe and modern GMH facility a reality for our people.”
The measure proposes an organized approach for the government of Guam to pursue a new hospital facility in light of similar but separate efforts made previously by the legislature and administration officials.
Taitague said she will work on amending the measure by replacing the commission with a task force to help move this priority forward expeditiously.
According to GMH Administrator Lillian Posadas, the government of Guam doesn’t have a committee, task force, or staff members currently working to address ideas, solutions, and proposals brought forward by previous working groups.
In 2017, the Calvo-Tenorio administration proposed borrowing $125 million on the bond market to improve conditions at GMHA which included the addition of new services and facilities.
Included in a report issued in 2016 by former senator Dennis Rodriguez’s GMH Task Force is the introduction of legislation directing GEDA to develop and publish a request for information relative to how an interested contractor, hospital management team, or operator would transition government operation of GMH to a public-private partnership while continuing to provide quality hospital services which are accessible to the people of Guam.
More recently, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero announced that the Department of the Interior will fund an assessment of GMH facilities by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Taitague introduced Bill 5 on Jan. 7 immediately after she was sworn in as a member of the 35th Guam Legislature. She’s also worked closely with GEDA since January to apply for $150,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration – which will help the administration and legislature identify resources to either renovate or construct a new GMH facility.
“I speak in favor of this bill. Why should we wait until the report is done before we decide to form a task force or what to do? The report is going to tell you whether it’s structurally sound or not. The task force can be moving in many directions at the same time and you can be running in parallel with that report [assessment by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers],” said Chris Felix at the public hearing on Bill 5.
“There is electrical, plumbing, the existing structure. At the same time the task force can be looking for alternative sites, rough cost working with private partnership and arrangements and seeing what is out there and those can be done running in parallel with the report. To wait for the report is done just delays us another 6 months to a year,” said Felix, who served on the GMHA Task Force led by former Senator Rodriguez.
Taitague said she is confident Bill 5 will help lead to the replacement of the current GMHA facility which, at least through information submitted to the 35th Guam Legislature, needs $57 million for numerous improvements. Projects include a $6 million power upgrade project, a $5 million structural roof repair and water proofing project, and a new Electronic Health Records System priced right below $22 million.