Governor launches online petition to drum up support for medical complex construction in Mangilao
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan and Frank Whitman
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero today launched an online petition seeking to draw community support for her plan to build a medical complex in Mangilao in a bid to counter a legislative proposal to designate Tamuning as the site of a new hospital.
In response to critics who argue that Guam needs just a new hospital and not a medical complex, the governor said, "Our people deserve more than just a hospital. They deserve a modern medical complex."
The governor is seeking to build a complex that would integrate a hospital with a public health center, a behavioral health and wellness center, a pharmacy, specialty care clinics, a Veterans Administration office and a medical providers’ clinic.
"As a nurse and as your governor, I want our island to have access to the best in healthcare services," the petition reads. "Limiting ourselves to building a stand-alone hospital ensures we only receive standard hospital care."
Since the plan to build a medical campus on the Navy-owned Eagles Field property fell through, the alternative location has continued to be a hotly debated discussion.
The medical community endorses Ypao Point in Tamuning, but the governor is seeking to acquire pieces of ancestral land in Acadao, where she is proposing to build her pet project.
According to the information sheet attached to the petition, building a new facility in Acadao would increase access for southern and central residents.
"Building a medical complex in central Guam decreases drive times for southern residents who currently have limited options for healthcare," the petition states.
"Widening of roads along Route 15 is already in DoD's plans. Building a medical complex in this area will take full advantage of their highway improvements, freeing up more DPW funding for village roads."
The Guam Medical Association, however, said its members support the Ypao Point site.
"The 'medical campus' already exists in Tamuning that will provide the people of Guam the medical infrastructure it needs," Pramila Sullivan, GMA executive director. wrote in a letter to the governor.
GMA sought to meet with the governor on Thursday to make the healthcare providers' case.
"She's unavailable for the time requested by the GMA and offered an alternative time Friday. (GMA) declined," said Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's communications director.
Adelup said starting Thursday, the governor will be addressing community groups during information meetings to build a Guam Medical Complex
“Lawmakers have publicly stated that if they were involved in the discussion and planning, they would support the building of a medical complex. In addition to meeting with senators, I want to share this vision with our community, with groups that are adversely affected, and all concerned citizens,” the governor said.
These information meetings precede a public hearing on Bill 184-37 scheduled for Nov. 1.
"The proposed legislation supports Governor Leon Guerrero’s vision to build a medical complex in Barrigada, one that co-locates a hospital, public health center, behavioral health, veterans clinic, pharmacy, and specialty care clinics in addition to medical providers’ offices," the governor's office said.
Also emerging as a sore issue is the government's $6 million contract with the Matrix Group, which prepared the study for the construction of a medical complex.
"To be clear, the Matrix study for a Guam Medical Campus Action Plan was $1.6 million, not $6 million," Paco-San Agustin clarified.
The $6 million total, she added, included other tasks performed by the Matrix Group under the previous administration.
Guam healthcare providers expressed their support for locating a new Guam Memorial Hospital at Ypao Point in Tamuning during a legislative oversight hearing on Oct. 19.
The hearing was called by Speaker Therese Terlaje who chairs the Committee on Health, Land, Justice and Culture, after Sen. Chris Barnett introduced a bill which would require that a new GMH be built in Tamuning. The bill was introduced on Oct. 13.
Support for the Ypao Point location comes despite opposition from Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who favors a location in Adacao, Mangilao.
The physicians based their support for the Ypao site primarily on the lack of easy access to Adacao which is located off Route 15, a two-lane road commonly referred to as “the back road.”
Ypao Point is adjacent to the current GMH and was the site of the hospital from 1956 to 1978.
During the hearing, Dr. Thomas Shieh, president of the Guam Medical Association, presented slides with information from a study of potential sites for the new hospital prepared by the Matrix Design Group Inc. for the Office of the Governor at a reported cost of $6 million.
He showed several slides from the study with tables which indicated that Ypao Point would be the preferred site over Adacao based on select criteria.
These included population density, travel distance, emergency response time and distance from clinics to the hospital.
“Proximity of the clinics to the hospital saves lives,” Shieh said. “It’s not about money. It’s about saving lives.”
An analysis of drive times to the proposed hospital sites indicates that 24.4 percent of Guam’s population or 35,686 people live within a. 10-minute drive of Ypao Point while 8.6 percent or 13,731 people live within 10 minutes of Adacao, according to the Matrix study.
“The optimum time to get the patient to the hospital is 10 minutes; 20 minutes OK; 30 minutes, acceptable,” he said. “When you get past 30 minutes, the outcome is not acceptable, which means death and morbidity.”
In addition to getting patients to the hospital quicker where they can begin receiving critical - possibly lifesaving – care sooner, shorter drive time also means physicians and other providers can get to the hospital and begin providing care.
Currently, nearly all major clinics and ancillary service providers are located within five to 10 minutes of the Ypao site.
“That is incredibly important, to have a site with accessibility, with multiple routes you can access,” said Dr. Denise Taitano-Ritter, family medicine physician at American Medical Center. “In addition to that, how quickly can your specialists get to that site – your ob gyn, your cardiologists, your radiologists?”
She told of a recent medical emergency involving her mother who had to be rushed to the GMH emergency room where she received care and “had the best possible outcome,” Taitano-Ritter said.
“The infrastructure is what it is because it makes sense for our people. Having Ypao Point as the location allows for multiple access points to get to the hospital whether there is a vehicle collision, inclement weather, road construction, we can still access that spot. Additionally, our specialists are there; they will be there in a minute’s notice because minutes matter. When you think about heart attacks and strokes, you’re going to want your specialist to be there as soon as possible.”