Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero went to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Honolulu in July, carrying her own Olympic-size torch in an effort to raise the estimated $1 billion needed to build a state-of-the-art hospital in Guam.
In her meetings with more than two dozen government, congressional and military leaders, Leon Guerrero’s “focus was to advocate for the funding, planning and construction of new public hospital,” she announced at a press conference.
“Although I’ve allocated funds in the American Rescue Plan to this cause, I’m very aware that it won’t be enough. It’s why I’m looking at every funding opportunity, every grant, every piece of federal legislation to support this cause,” she said.
“I’m committed to getting this hospital funded through solid partnerships. Going out to the capital market will be my last resort.
“While we still have a long ways to go in securing the necessary funding, I can report that the Biden administration, through the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Department of Interior, the various offices of the Department of Defense, the Office of Local Defense and Community Cooperation, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, are aware of this priority and are equally committed to seeing this effort through.”
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No one with whom she met was safe from the light she shed on the short runway of five years when “quick fixes” identified by the Army Corps of Engineers for the aging Guam Memorial Hospital would end their lifecycle if initiated.
Among those she met with in Capitol Hill was Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources. “We discussed funding opportunities for the hospital and our continued advocacy for parity for federal programs such as Medicaid throughout the U.S. territories,” she reported.
A discussion with Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii included “the strategic importance of the new public hospital, my support for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, and our mutual concerns resulting from the impacts of the Compact of Free Association in our respective jurisdictions.”
In her meeting with Case, the governor also advocated for “more meaningful results that address the longstanding effects but allows for the continued free migration of our sisters and brothers from throughout Micronesia into the United States.”
San Francisco was the site for meetings with members of the Region XI leadership from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Together with FEMA,” the governor said, “these federal agencies made Guam a priority in making the resources available whenever needed [during Covid-19).”
In the coming months, her office will be working with Region XI partners “to ensure that our policy and technical needs are met and remain in harmony with the Biden administration.”
The trip ended in Honolulu with the top leadership at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Headquarters, where the governor met with the commanders of the U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, the Pacific Air Forces, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Army Pacific and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
While discussions focused on the ongoing military activities in the region, the governor again used the meetings “to discuss our need for a new public hospital through a clear view in the interest of national security and distributive capability for the preservation and protection of the health of U.S. citizens in the region as well as the U.S. allies in the island sovereign nations in the region."
“Guam serves as a hub for the region and there is a clear need for building a 21st-century medical center of excellence, with the crowning component being the new public hospital," the governor said.
"The new hospital must also support our veterans of the Armed Forces here and in the region who oftentimes are underserved when it comes to healthcare in the region. I’m deeply honored to have the support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific commander and the subordinate component commands to see this vision through.”
The leadership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led by Brig. Gen. Kirk Gibbs, commander and division engineer for the Pacific Ocean Division, was not spared the light from her torch.
“Although we discussed several ongoing projects in Guam,” she said, “the central topic was again the planning, design and construction of the new hospital. I was pleased to learn that the hospital remains a top priority on the Army Corps’ radar and they are committed to assisting my administration in every way possible.
“While it would be ideal to commission the entire hospital project to the Army Corps, I appreciate the frank discussion I had concerning costs and protracted timelines based on other projects undertaken by the corps. Based on that reality, I want to thank Gen. Gibbs and Lt. Col. Eric Marshall, district commander, for being open to the option of having the corps participate fully in the planning and design phases of the initiative.”