Governor: Guam can be the 'regional center of excellence for medical services'
Updated: Oct 24
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Against the backdrop of a political fray over the island’s collapsing government hospital, Gov. Lou Leon Guerero said Guam can be the focal point of the United States’ medical diplomacy with its allies in the Pacific region.
“We are uniquely positioned to be the regional center of excellence for medical services and human health and my strategic vision for healthcare is one that is consistent with the needs of my people as well as the national security strategy,”
the governor said in her remarks at the Pacific Defense Contracting Summit held Oct. 17-19 in Honolulu.
“There is no denying that Guam is arguably the most consequential territory within the Indo-Pacific for national security and missile defense, and medical
services are essential to that security,” the governor said.
The United States is preparing the Pacific region for a potential conflict with China, beefing up its military presence and building infrastructures on Tinian, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands, which are marked as alternative sites of military operations.
“Beyond our U.S. treaties and security mechanisms, I recognize that medical diplomacy is not only an essential pillar for strengthening U.S. allies and partners, it is a critical one,” Leon Guerrero said.
The governor noted that a resilient medical infrastructure is a significant aspect of national security.
However, Guam, the CNMI and the neighboring Pacific island nations suffer from poor healthcare infrastructure and medical care system.
On the home front, the poorly managed Guam Memorial Hospital is currently experiencing a crisis, with recurring facility issues that are typically resolved on a piecemeal basis. Last week, a new law authorized a $50 million bailout for GMH to assist the hospital in settling its outstanding debts owed to its vendors and to cover the costs of emergency repairs to the facility.
“There is no doubt that there are significant gaps in comprehensive civilian and military medical services across the region,” the governor said.
While the Guam legislature maintains that GMH be salvaged pending the construction of a replacement facility, Leon Guerrero insists on prioritizing a plan for a new hospital project.
The governor’s initial plan to build a medical complex at the Navy-owned Eagles Field property fell through due to a political clash with the legislature over the terms of the now-abandoned lease contract with the Joint Region Marianas.
“Recently I met with my friend Admiral Chris Aquilino and we want to breathe new life into enhancing medical services on Guam. I know that de-risking his theater campaign with advanced medical care is paramount,” the governor said.
“Together, we can design and build human health security to support our people of Guam, as well as a steady state peacetime, contingency, and crisis operations,” she added.
While the project has been resurrected, the site for a new hospital remains a contentious issue.
The governor favors a location in Mangilao, but senators are inclined to designate Tamuning as the site for a new medical facility.
During a legislative oversight hearing on Oct. 19, Guam healthcare providers expressed their support for locating a new hospital at Ypao Point in Tamuning.