By Pacific Island Times News Staff Seeking a potential solution to the "distance" aspect of the debate over the location of a new Guam hospital, Sen. Frank F. Blas Jr. today proposed the establishment of emergency service infrastructure for residents in the southern villages.
Blas wrote to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero asking her to tap into the American Rescue Plan funds to build a 24-hour urgent care facility in the Southern Regional Community Health Center and to purchase ambulances to specifically service the southern villages.
“The public debate on whether to build a new hospital or a comprehensive medical center and where to locate it has revealed a deeper and more urgent issue: the accessibility and timeliness of reaching a medical facility," Blas stated in his letter to the governor.
Sen. Chris Barnett's Bill 184-37 would designate Tamuning as the location of the new hospital that the government is planning to build.
While the medical community endorses the construction of a new hospital in Oka Point in Tamuning, the governor insists on building a medical complex on a spot she has selected in Mangilao/Barrigada.
"Many people who testified in favor of building a medical facility in Mangilao instead of Tamuning cited the long travel time and distance from the southern villages to the Guam Memorial Hospital as major issues," Blas said.
"Another troubling aspect of their testimonies was the lack of adequate medical transport services and the disregard for the Southern Region Community Health Center," he added.
Testimonies at public hearings also revealed that the existing facilities in Dededo, Mangilao and Inalahån Public Health buildings are not fully utilized and that ambulance services are either insufficient or unavailable.
“The issue of availability and timely emergency medical care has been a perennial concern with southern residents, and this was mentioned in testimonies in the public hearings concerning where a new hospital or medical complex should be built," Blas said.
"What I gleaned was that there is a neglected issue that we need to address before we proceed with where a new medical facility should be constructed. Time and distance are factors when you are trying to get emergency medical care while lying in the backseat of a car as opposed to on a stretcher in an ambulance,” he added.
Blas urged the governor to use the federal Covid funds to staff and retrofit the under-utilized Southern Regional Community Health Center to include a 24-hour urgent care facility.
"This could provide immediate emergency medical services, and in extreme cases, stabilize a patient before transporting him to a hospital. Funding can further be used to procure and maintain two ambulances for the Center to provide immediate aid and transport to the facility, or if necessary, to a hospital," he added.
Blas reiterated his earlier remarks that the government should fix the existing problems first before pursuing a complicated project, such as a "comprehensive medical facility" being proposed by the governor.