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 Fix the roof, clean the mold: Babies deserve better




By Vincent Akimoto

Thirty-four weeks ago in a time more innocent than today, the mommies and the daddies of Guam had less access to high-tech entertainment and more hours of darkness to discover more primal recreational diversions in their bedrooms.


Eight moldy months and many hours of political posturing later, embryos have turned into fetuses and fetuses have turned into babies, some a little too eager to leave the womb.


Thanks to Super Typhoon Mawar, Guam will likely have more than sweet mangoes and savory avocados falling from the heavens over the next 12 weeks. A well-placed source has revealed that the proverbial Stork is planning a beaucoup Spring harvest of babies for Guam.


The romantic combo of last year’s Covid-free Valentine's weekend and the sultry island ambience created by post-typhoon devastation has enhanced an expected explosion of babies at Guam Memorial Hospital over the next three months.


Guam is one of the most fertile places in the world. Each year, more than 2,500 babies are born at GMH, which has become the busiest baby factory in all of Micronesia. This year, because of the blessings of Typhoon Mawar, a larger number of mothers are expected to give birth at the GMH labor and delivery ward.


The hope and expectation are that this time will be joyous. After all, babies are more than just symbols of Hope, they are Hope incarnate.


GMH public relations has claimed that they have plenty of qualified doctors who can safely deliver babies at GMH even if the baby is sick and dying. Just recently, GMH officials said they had more than 10 obstetric doctors to assist and support the 220 babies who are born at GMH every month.


Unfortunately, the average age of GMH obstetricians is a very exhausted 64 years. Then recently, one of them died, two actually. Now, several of them are quickly claiming various stages of retirement. Two of them live in the states. One lives in Saipan. Another is commuting back and forth between Guam and Hawaii but is eventually finding the airfares to be increasingly prohibitive.


Very possibly, Guam will soon have no local full-time OB doctors to provide high-risk perinatal care to the more than 3,000 women giving birth every year.

Well-trained, highly skilled obstetric doctors are needed because GMH is one of the most dangerous places to give birth in America.

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For reasons that Guam Public Health is too slowly studying, more pregnant women on Guam die during childbirth than almost anywhere else in the United States. To make matters even worse for our island’s poor families, a baby born at GMH is almost twice as likely to die before his/her first birthday than a baby born anywhere else in America.


In 2021, the worst year for infant mortality on the island, Guam saw 41 infant deaths. Although Guam Public Health has little answers, we do know that CHamoru women and Chuukese mothers are disproportionately more likely to be affected. Chuukese infants on Guam are dying nearly three times more often than the national average.


The ultimate argument against the sin of GovGuam political patronage is the tragic misdirection of precious taxpayer dollars towards selfish political ass-kissers while GMH is denied funds to fix its broken roof or buy essential medicines.


The resultant final irony is a filthy, unaccredited GovGuam hospital giving birth to CHamoru babies who were nearly five times more likely to die before reaching their first birthday than other babies in America.


GMH’s attempts over the past six years to fill in the gap in prenatal care with midwives and nurse practitioners did not account for high-risk patients—those who were most likely to see their infants die. Those patients need real doctors, physicians with experience and skills to save young lives.

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GMH spin doctors have pointed to a nationwide OB-GYN shortage as the reason for their failure to recruit real doctors. Increasingly, GMH has sought to rely on less experienced healthcare providers and disconnected telemedicine practitioners who live in the states.


Unfortunately, dying babies and heartbroken mothers don’t seem to be responding well to GMH’s long-distance artificial intelligence.


Meanwhile, 17 minutes by airplane to the North, our neighbor Saipan has successfully recruited and retained more than enough excellent OB doctors to take care of their indigenous mothers and babies.  


Perhaps the governor of Guam should humbly seek the assistance of our wise northern colleagues to finally solve our OB crisis at GMH. Such an act of contrite cooperation would be a wonderful One Marianas solution.


A more immediate problem likely killing babies at GMH is mold. In 2019, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivered a scathing warning to GMH officials about urgent life-safety issues due to toxic black mold scum growing throughout the hospital where sick babies were being born.


Rather than heed the federal government’s caution, GMH officials instead gave 22 percent pay raises to nonessential personnel and hired lazy political sycophants to pour Clorox on the mold. Since then, the hospital’s deadly fungal problems have worsened to the point of catastrophic medical implications.


My summary: GMH toxic black mold = dead babies.


This whole GMH mess was totally predictable and unnecessary but it is what it is. Because hospital leadership failed to ensure a safe hospital environment,

Guam parents have lost their children, families have lost their mothers, and husbands have lost their wives. For too many tragic patients, GMH has murdered their souls.


In 1997, when GMH was facing a similar catastrophic failure, the governor of Guam went to Tamuning; saw the mess for himself; heard all the excuses; fired all the hospital leadership, and personally fixed the problems. He executed hospital leadership by walking around.


In 2024, I refuse to accept the filthy failures at GMH as our collective reality any longer, and neither should you. And so, I say today, with every fiber of my being, and every ounce of my strength, that we can and we must and we will do better for our people.


We can and we must and we will clean our children’s hospital. We can and we must and we will fix the leaking roof and finally get rid of the toxic mold scum. We can and we must make GMH good for Guam again and regain national Joint Commission hospital accreditation.


   Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to akimotovincent@yahoo.com






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