Governor urged to declare a state of emergency for Guam Memorial Hospital
Republicans warn substandard care exposes the government hospital to a call for federal receivership; Adelup says a new hospital is the answer to medical care crisis
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Republican members of the Guam legislature are asking the governor to declare a state of emergency for Guam Memorial Hospital, warning that its "dysfunctional state," if left uncorrected, might "necessitate a call for federal receivership."
"It is clear that the compromised operations, dilapidated facilities, and substandard level of care of the Guam Memorial Hospital necessitate the need for immediate and decisive action to prevent the further deterioration and decomposition of our island's only public hospital," states a legislative resolution introduced Wednesday by the Republican caucus.
The minority party called for an emergency declaration on the heels of last week's oversight hearing that opened a can of worms: GMH is breaking apart, walls are covered with mold and spores, ventilation systems are not working, some areas are prone to flooding, essential supplies are lacking, outstanding debts to vendors are racking up.
The Republicans underscored the need to "direct funding and resources to assist our hospital with its financial challenges, supply deficiencies, and structural rehabilitation and repairs."
But even without declaring a state of emergency, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has the ability to meet the hospital’s needs with local and federal funds at her disposal, Sen, Frank Blas Jr. said.
Besides the $56 million in excess revenue reported by the governor’s office, Blas said the administration has received federal disaster assistance for Typhoon Mawar recovery, on top of a $200 million balance from the American Rescue Plan.
“The last two years was the best time for Guam. We had the opportunity to bring the hospital back in shape and get it reaccredited,” said Blas, the main author of the resolution. “The governor said the government is doing well with excess funds, yet GMH has gotten worse in the last two years.”
The deteriorating condition of the hospital is likely to spark a court petition for federal receivership, Blas said. “It’s the last resort and I hope we don’t have to go that route,” he added.
In the resolution, the Republican caucus said last week's oversight hearing "revealed that GMH lacks the leadership and resources to procure and provide a steady supply of basic sanitation supplies for medical personnel to deliver dignified care for their patients."
The most telling testimony at the oversight hearing was presented by GMH nurse Isabel Flores, daughter of Jayne Flores, director of the Bureau of Women's Affairs.
"The deplorable conditions of GMH have deteriorated below
acceptable local, national, and international safety standards for both the patients seeking medical attention and the employees who provide life-saving treatment as attested to by practicing health care professionals," states the resolution co-authored by Sens. Teleo Taitague, Joanne M. Brown, Christopher M. Duenas, Thomas Fisher and Jesse A. Lujan.
Jesse A. Lujan
While acknowledging the need for Guam to build a replacement hospital, the Republicans said the government must prioritize the existing facility's urgent needs.
Adelup, however, maintained that building a new hospital is the answer to Guam's medical care crisis.
"The United States Army Corps of Engineers has already evaluated the current hospital and determined that it would be more cost-effective to build a new one than to repair the existing one," Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's communications director, said in a statement.
"We need a new GMH. And the Republican senators who have introduced this resolution also blocked the construction of a new hospital at the Eagles Field on property that the Department of Defense was going to lease to GovGuam at no cost," she added.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's proposal to build a $1 billion medical complex at the Navy-owned property was aborted by a political clash over the site selection.
The Navy has since withdrawn the draft lease contract for Eagle's Field.
"Now, (the Department of Defense) is going to use that property for something else and there is still no site for the construction of a new hospital," Paco-San Agustin said.
The administration sought a collaboration with the legislature "to find a new piece of land and help fund the construction of a new hospital."
“Everyone knows GMH needs urgent help. But, this resolution is just like the Republican approach to providing that help—it says a lot but does absolutely nothing," Paco-San Agustin said.
"Five of the six Republicans in today’s Legislature are veteran politicians who have served in that role years before—some going back to the '90s and early 2000s, yet not once did they call for a state of emergency when the Calvo administration lost GMH accreditation or the Camacho administration couldn’t afford epidurals," she added.
The Republicans, however, insist that "addressing the issues and concerns of GMH needs to take precedence," noting that "a multi-functioning facility is years away from becoming a reality."
"Meeting the basic standards set by the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services required for certification should be the utmost priority for
Guam's leaders as more than $1 billion have been received through CARES Act, American Rescue Plan, and other federal financial resources that should have been used for GMH facility rehabilitation and operations since 2020," the resolution reads.
Without immediate action to correct the dysfunctional state of GMH, the Republicans said, "it will necessitate the call for federal receivership to ensure that proper management, guidance, and support for GMH to begin the process needed to restore the hospital's ability to provide a deserving and acceptable level of health care for the people of Guam."