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GMH doctors back Ypao Point for new hospital, but Adelup says the site is located on faultline

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The debate on the future location of Guam's new medical facility continued to flare up on Monday during a public hearing on a bill designating Tamuning as the site project.

The governor's office argued against building the hospital at Ypao Point in Tamuning, saying the spot is located on a faultline, making it extremely difficult to borrow money on the bond market for its construction, whether directly or by lease-back.

Thus, the governor's office said, the project "may be dead on arrival."

Doctors at Guam Memorial Hospital on Monday expressed support for Bill 185-37, noting that keeping the location of the new hospital in near proximity to health care providers, adjunct services, and the population “is putting patients first and this saves lives.”

The hospital’s Anesthesia Department led by Dr. Reynald Lim, the department cited a 2007 study published in Emergency Medicine Journal, which concluded that “increased journey distance to the hospital seems to be associated with increased risk of mortality, even after potential confounding by illness severity is taken into account.”

“Their data suggest that each additional kilometer is associated with a 2 percent relative increase in mortality. This equates to an approximate 1 percent absolute increase in mortality associated with each 10‐km increase in straight‐line distance,” the anesthesiologists said.

“When an emergency happens, two things are of the utmost importance, how fast you recognize the emergency and how fast an emergency response team can evaluate and treat an emergency case,” they added.

A group of pediatricians also gave Bill 185-37 the thumbs up.

"Our opinion is based on our collective experiences as pediatricians who have taken care of the most vulnerable of our population, the newborns, infants and children of our island," the pediatricians said.

"From premature and full-term babies that needed resuscitation, to infants, children and adolescents with respiratory distress, we all know and have witnessed the grave consequences of a delay in care in a matter of few minutes. This is the main reason why the hospital needed to be built in Tamuning /Ypao Point," the pediatricians said.

Ordot Chalan Pago Mayor Jesse Gogue said there is no adequate study to support the construction of a new hospital in Tamuning. "From a facilities and accessibility standpoint, the preferred location of our new hospital must be based on its use by our people of Guam and not rest solely on the 'business' aspects that seem to be the focus of attention to date," he said.

The governor's office said any plan to building on Ypao Road would face a stumbling block.

"According to Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA) bond counsel, construction on a fault line would require disclosure to potential investors, which would, in turn, make marketing bonds 'extremely difficult," the governor's office said.

Adelup cited a letter from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff LLP, a global law firm that advises governments on transactions, warning that the existence of a geographic fault line on the Ypao Point property could "dampen investor interest and leave investors wondering why the project was located on a fault line and if there were other potential sites available to the government.”

Other potential sites are far more suitable for the construction of a new hospital and medical complex—none of which hold the same disclosure risk. The first site, Eagle’s Field in Mangilao, faced staunch opposition from a minority of senators who believed that land was slated for return by the federal government. This proved to be false.

The governor's office also said Ypao Point is too small for Guam’s growing needs. "This means that without planning for future expansion now, we will once again be left with an overcrowded hospital in the not-so-distant future—leaving the challenges of today for our kids tomorrow," the governor's office said in a statement.

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