The number of coronavirus-stricken employees at the Guam Memorial Hospital has gone up to 55 in recent weeks, and 28 of them are nurses, according to hospital administrator Lilian Posadas.
“Most of them have already recovered and returned to work, but four are still in isolation,” Posadas said.
The staff shrinkage at GMH has been exacerbated by a load increase in hemodialysis due to migration of kidney patients from private clinics that are unable to treat individuals who are Covid-19 positive.
While private dialysis centers on Guam remain open and continue accommodating patients who need treatments, Posadas said, “they are not prepared to treat those individuals who are Covid positive.”
GMH has to accommodate kidney patients from private clinics since they have not set aside special facilities and dedicated staff for Covid-19 cases, Posadas said.
On a weekly basis, GMH treats between seven and 15 kidney patients who are Covid-19 positive, she said.
“GMH is pretty much the only facility that accepts those individuals, who are Covid-19 positive right now,” Posadas said.
GMH is currently working with private clinics to identify a specific facility for coronavirus-stricken kidney patients. “They are looking at the South Finegayen Clinic to be their facility for those individuals," Posadas said.
The Joint Region Marianas earlier said a military medical team, which is currently reinforcing the hospital’s shrunken staff, will continue providing assistance to GMH till the end of the month.
The government has temporarily waived licensing requirements for nurses during the public health emergency to allow the immediate hiring and augment the manpower at the hospital.
So far, GMH has been able to bring on board 15 nurses, who graduated from the University of Guam in May. The hiring agency that provides the nurses charges a maximum of $145 per hour. “That’s the maximum rate the agency charges us; it can be lower. I am not sure how much they pay the nurses Posadas.
Posadas dismissed speculations that the newly hired nurses were thrown into their jobs without proper training.
Prior to hiring, Posadas said, nurses acquire actual clinical experience at GMH.
“This is where they learn actual clinical experience. They are assigned to work with real patients with staff nurses supervising them,” Posadas said. “They perform skills such as medical administration, doing nursing care tasks, doing assessment of the patients.”
Pending in the legislative health committee is a bill that would simplify the hiring process for nurses.
Authored by Sen. Mary Camacho Torres and Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Bill 239-35 would add Guam to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)—making it easier for nurses in other NLC states to practice on Guam without having to obtain additional licenses.
Under the bill, mmbership to the NLC would allow Guam to recruit from a pool of over 2 million nurses from 34 member states—integrating the island to a coordinated information system containing the licensure and disciplinary history of each nurse.
The bill was introduced prior to the Covid-19 pandemic on Nov. 6. At the time, the island’s public and private hospitals had announced “divert status” due to an insufficient number of nurses—a shortage that has only been exacerbated by Guam’s current public health emergency.
“In these pandemic times, our frontliners are shorthanded and overworked. Bill 239 would have streamlined the burdensome process nurses arriving on Guam are now facing and may have allowed them to get from airplane to hospital much faster,” Torres said. “I am thankful that the calls of the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority and the Board of Nurse Examiners have been answered and I look forward to hearing from the nursing community at this Public Hearing.”
“For months, I have been calling on this hearing to fill a critical need for our island-to save the lives of our manåmko’ and our manhoben. While Governor Leon Guerrero has temporarily waived current licensing requirements during this Public Health emergency, I will do everything in my power to ensure this bill is moved forward expeditiously to avoid further delays for incoming nurses,” Muña Barnes said.