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A jigsaw puzzle: How do you solve a problem like Guam Memorial Hospital?



In the midst of a recent oversight hearing at the Guam legislature, Lilian Perez-Posadas, administrator of Guam Memorial Hospital, collected her things and stormed out of the public hearing room after announcing, “I will step down. Yes, I will retire. I’ve done my time. Thank you.”


During the same proceedings, two GMH nurses who testified before the body blew the whistle and enumerated everything that was wrong with the government hospital, such as the recurring shortage of essential supplies, faulty electrical systems, flood-prone floors, mold-covered walls, leaking ceilings where snakes breed, dysfunctional ventilation systems. In other words, GMH is falling apart.


One more storm and it’s a goner, according to nurse Isabel Flores.

“Where did all the Covid money go? Asked Flores, daughter of Jayne Flores, a member of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s cabinet.


Another nurse, Eric Lee, expressed his utter embarrassment at having to tell families that the hospital did not have wipes to clean up the patients.


While the nurses implied that the problems were spawned by poor management and negligence, hospital administrators— predictably—attributed their failure to a lack of funds.


But Guam senators have always been skeptical of GMH’s real fiscal predicament. Facts and figures are tossed around at every public hearing that tackles the hospital’s incessant pleas for rescue funds.


However, the picture of GMH is like a jigsaw puzzle that no one is able to solve. Lawmakers shake their heads. Invoking public health and medical care to plead for more funds is nothing short of blackmail. But when patients are at stake, the folks who hold the purse strings — despite doubts — acquiesce just the same. And the taxpayers are compelled to chip in.


So once again, the government chucked a $50 million bailout at GMH.


The GMH saga is the longest-running show on Guam. The dramatis personae change, one administration after another, but the plot remains the same. GMH is the staple of every election and the epitome of broken promises. The hospital’s hardworking employees equally suffer, trying to make do with the limitations and survive the endless chaos.


In 2018, former GMH CEO Ted Lewis revealed the inner workings of the hospital and the cause of its financial hemorrhage. Some physicians were double dipping. Contracts were awarded to political friends. Those who questioned were ostracized and expelled.

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The root of the problems and potential solutions stare the government in the face. Nurse Flores had to point it out again. Depoliticize GMH, she said at the oversight hearing. Bring in real healthcare experts to lead the hospital, she suggested.


Useless legislative resolutions don’t cut it. They only add to the politicization of the crisis. Only the politicians who love the sound of their voices are entertained by this humdrum action.


Privatization is another potential solution that every Guam governor chooses to dismiss. Every now and then, the proposal for privatization of GMH management surfaces. Each time, it is swept under the rug. All they have to consider is the success of the previously government-run GTA.


Then, there is the dreaded “federal receivership” suggested by Republicans. Think of Guam’s solid waste management system, which unfortunately slid back to a lackadaisical performance after local control was reinstated.


No way, the governor implored. This idea, she said, counters Guam’s quest for self-determination. In a matter of life-and-death situation, a pipedream has to pave the way for a pragmatic solution.


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Speaker Therese Terlaje asked: How can Guam make a case for self-determination when it cannot even manage its own hospital?


Critics raised their eyebrows when the governor recently declared that Guam is “positioned to be the regional center of excellence for medical services and human health.”


How, they ask, will this happen when the government cannot even properly manage its own hospital, let alone keep the public pool running?




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