Updated: May 18
Surviving the brunt of Covid-19 that was feared to push Guam's healthcare system into abyssmal exhaustion, the Guam Memorial Hospital emerged winner of two prestigious awards for its response to the pandemic.
The Healthcare Asia Awards 2021 named GMH "Hospital of the Year" and "Covid Management Initiative of the Year on Guam," recognizing its implementation of 40 protocols for clinical and operational management that enabled the hospital to beat Covid-19.
“Covid truly challenged and pushed our GMH staff in every way. But in that difficulty, the best of the hospital’s community truly came out,” GMH’s CEO Lillian Perez-Posadas said.
“As a prime example, hospital staff began offering themselves as ‘proxy’ family support for patients in-house, because visitation restrictions meant family members were not allowed to visit or be in the hospital. That’s true care and compassion. That’s our team at GMH," she added.
The oft-maligned, underfunded and understaffed government hospital was on the brink of collapse when Guam hit the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in summer last year.
The large wave of Covid positive cases caused GMH to reach over capacity, forcing it at one point to set up beds at the curbside of the emegency driveway. The staff's physical exhaustion was compounded by mental anguish triggered by watching patients die one after the other on a daily basis.
“The risks that GMH staff took were unparalleled. Without question, teams prepared to treat and care for Covid and non-Covid patients," GMH board chair Theresa Obispo said, congratulating the entire team for the twin awards.
"Led by little data in the flurry of the deadly virus, the hospital’s operation was turned upside down and still, staff, both clinical and non-clinical, demonstrated their unwavering cooperation and willingness to provide the needed care and treatment for the island’s community,” Obispo added.
Amid its perennial challenges, the 50-year-old medical facility often becomes a political playground for elected officials and political appointees.
GMH fights for adequate subsidy every year as self-paying patients make up the largest segment of its client base.
While good news is typically hard to come by for GMH, Healthcare Asia noted its significant achievements during the pandemic.
The hospital, for example, established a state-of-the-art telehealth/telemedicine and physical rounder 2 program to sustain life-saving intensive and critical patient care services.
- Created a "War Room" Committee dedicated to the individual clinical management of Covid-19 patients;
- Created a daily briefing document and daily Covid-huddles to ensure streamlined communication amongst all branches of the hospital;
- And, established electronic daily wellness checks to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 among GMH staff and keep up with crucial staffing levels.
"The team at Guam Memorial Hospital is incredibly honored and proud to have won two prestigious awards recognizing the hospital’s Covid-19 response," GMH said in a press release
As the Covid-19 played out, GMH continues regular operations and services, such as maternal child health, including labor and delivery of Covid and non-Covid pregnant patients, OB nursery/neonatal intensive care, pediatrics and pediatric intensive care unit.
Healthcare Asia noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge challenge for the healthcare industry. "From the fear of contamination to lack of manpower and available spaces for patients, the crisis has debilitated the industry's foundations and pushed many of their boundaries to their limits," the organization said in announcing 39 winners that also included medical facilities Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Oman India and Thailand.
"Not armed with much clinical data, experience, or specialized guidance on the management of Covid patients, GMH staff showed up heroically for the battle call," the GMH management said. "Undoubtedly, there were anxieties, concerns, questions, and uncertainties among staff but despite it all, GMH’s employees, from medical to operations, and from maintenance to finance, all rose to the challenge. Their commitment to caring for Guam’s community was unfaltering."
“I want to personally congratulate the extraordinary staff at the Guam Memorial Hospital for always rising to the occasion. Grounded by compassion, GMH is, and continues to be, a place of hope and healing in our darkest hours, and the Covid-19 pandemic was no different," Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.
"With our healthcare heroes at the frontlines, our island overcame not one, but two surges. Moving forward, my administration remains committed to providing GMH the support and resources to continue its mission of providing exceptional medical care to the people of Guam,” she added.
GMH also encompasses the Skilled Nursing Facility, which is a long-term care operation. As part of the island’s Covid response, GMH staff worked to convert the building into an isolation facility to hold virus-patients who no longer needed acute hospital care but were not ready for complete discharge. This helped free up much-needed acute care beds at GMH.
In the category of Hospital of the Year, GMH is one of six winners, honored along with winners from India, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia. GMH is one of the eight recipients of the Covid-19 Initiative of the Year.
Healthcare Asia is an industry magazine serving Asia’s hospital owners, investors, administrators and policymakers. It focuses on running healthcare organizations, both public and private, and discussing the policy issues that govern healthcare in the Asian region.
"The winners prove how challenges can serve as springboards that spur innovation and growth. We commend their contribution in driving the industry forward, and recognise their hard work and commitment to serving the public," said Healthcare Asia editor-in-chief and publisher Tim Charlton.