Guam’s health care problems rain like bombs, exploding mercilessly into the decrepit brick and mortar of our island’s public hospital and indigenous clinic facilities.
Metastatic cancer, epidemic kidney failure, relentless diabetes and heart disease bombard our medical system. The rocket's red glare illuminates the humanitarian crisis of elderly care and mental health shortfalls in our land of the free and home of the brave.
Our medical system is at a critical juncture. The pandemic has stripped all pretense from a corrupt island government that chose political patronage over people’s lives. In plain sight of hypocritical GovGuam bureaucrats, Covid-19 has killed more than 330 taxpayers and silenced their votes forever.
High on the hill in Oka, a forsaken hospital named in memory of the people of Guam has perpetuated patient safety violations and dirty toilets while perversely providing refuge for greedy political sycophants.
In Mangilao, a burnt-out Public Health laboratory rots in the sun.
And as Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero fantasizes about a billion-dollar medical campus in Pagat, the festering GovGuam failures, such as Simon Sanchez High School, the Cross Island Road and the Hagatna swimming pool, all scream out why we can’t have nice things.
A whole generation of Guam’s greatest citizens has been taken too soon. While other Pacific island nations have been relatively spared, gone now are Guam’s fathers, our mothers, our neighbors, our friends. We have forever lost their wisdom, their institutional knowledge, and their smiles.
Because of the malfeasance of Guam’s senators, our children have painfully learned that death leaves a heartache no one can heal, and love leaves a memory no one can steal.
While cynical Guam politicians do their crass calculus, hundreds of new orphans awaken to meet another day. Caregivers have been sacrificed so that one more unnecessary GovGuam job could be given, one more careless night spent in a five-star hotel by politicians on the taxpayer’s back.
Guam’s government leaders let our public health system be so dilapidated that Covid-19 overwhelmed it before all the high-ranking health officials could turn in their retirement papers.
Rather than appropriate money for nurses and public health scientists, your senators approved budget after budget that preferentially hired people who didn’t know how to use a fax machine.
In the face of an existential threat to their mothers and fathers, your legislature knowingly funded a government policy that placed priority on unnecessary GovGuam jobs rather than critical public health and hospital services. Then, when Covid-19 came, your senators ran and hid like cowards, and they selfishly sought special treatment while your fellow citizens were slaughtered.
As much as Guam’s governor was culpable in the failure of Guam’s Covid-19 response, she at least stood with her people when the dead bodies started piling up.
As chief executive, she courageously and gracefully bid every single Guam victim goodbye. She weathered the pandemic storm always at the frontline, herself also infected. For that, she deserves our gratitude.
Even as our Asian partners in South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong experience record numbers of Covid-19 deaths, Guam’s governor has decided to reopen our island to tourism. We can either choose to live or choose to die.
In order to keep our economy open, Guam needs a robust, continuously improving health care system that is mission-focused on saving lives.
Our hospitals must be strong, and our critical medical care resources capable of confronting any possible increase of patients if new variants of the coronavirus or any other emerging diseases attack our island.
A more advanced infectious disease surveillance system, probably with the help of genetic and digital technologies, is necessary. We need to find suspicious cases early; identify possible pathogens in a timely fashion; and manage infections and trace contacts efficiently when new variants of the coronavirus or any other emerging diseases invade our shores.
Great moments are born from great opportunity. Inside all of us lurks the Guam politician who may transform into a true servant of the people when confronted with such an existential threat as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Putting aside personal comfort and selfish glory, all we can ask of our Guam leaders is to have at least moral courage.
Dr. Vincent Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.