• By Pacific island Times News Staff

78th death reported; 76 GMH employees tested positive since August


A 76-year-old woman became Guam's 78th Covid-related fatality. The patient, who had underlying conditions, died at the Guam Memorial Hospital around 11:11 a.m. today.

She was admitted to GMH on Oct. 22 after testing positive at the Guam Regional Medical City.

“We are told that those who mourn will be comforted. To her family and friends, Jeff, Lt. Governor Josh, and I send our heartfelt condolences and sympathies. We hope you are comforted by the outpouring of support from your loved ones,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

The medical surge at GMH has also been exposing employees to the coronavirus, further creating a huge disproportion between the staff and patients.

GMH administrator Lilian Perez-Posadas said a total of 76 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 since the beginning of the second wave in early August. It was not known at this time how many are still in isolation and how many have recovered and returned to work.

"As it has been openly and publicly disclosed/proclaimed, GMH has been challenged with the perennial shortage of registered nurses and other health care professionals but more so RNs with specialty credentials and experience such as ER, Hemo, ICU/CCU and Telemetry nurses hence, the basis for contracting off-island staffing solutions agencies to bring in additional RNs with the experience in these specialty nursing practice," Posadas said.

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On Wednesday, local nurses reiertated their request for legislative action Bill 239-35, which would add Guam to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

Authored by Sen. Mary Torres, the bill would nurses in other NLC states to practice on Guam without having to obtain additional licenses.

The bill "remains stuck in the committee on health," Torres said.

“Bill 239 is a solution to the chronic nursing shortage," Ruth Gurusamy, president and clinic manager at Health Services of the Pacific.

Zennia Pecina, a nurse at the Health Professional Licensure Office, noted that Guam lacks specialty nurses to assist in specialized areas of the Intensive Care Unit, emergency room and the operating room. "Adoption of the NLC will not only invite nurses to our island, but will open the gates for specialized nurses to seek employment," Pecina said.

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Besides staffing shortage, GMH is also grappling with space limits, prompting the management to create a makeshift receiving area at the curbside, where half a dozen beds have been set up.

"We are handling the Covid and non-Covid patient surge as best and as efficiently as we possibly can given the challenges and limited resources," Posadas said. "We converted/restructured many of our inpatient and outpatient patient-care areas to accommodate Covid patients as well as to continue accommodating the non-Covid patients."

GMH has also upgraded many of the patient rooms in the various units to augment the electrical and mechanical systems, Posadas said.

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