Two bills seeking to address Guam's public health crisis moved to the voting file today.
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes' Bill 400-35 would allocate the $11.5 million from the Healthy Futures Fund to bridge the Department of Public Health and Social Services'; budget shortfall.
"We found a shortfall of $10.5 million, and we were able to fill that with an $11.5 million appropriation of cold hard cash, that has been audited and sitting in our coffers – our People deserve this, and I thank my colleagues for helping me make this happen,” Muna Barnes said.
Muna Barnes said Sen. Therese Terlaje's amendment allocates funding to the Guam Cancer Trust Fund. “Thanks to the foresight of Senator Terlaje, we were not only able to fund critical services for our manamko, services for abused and neglected women and children, much needed resources for our foster kids and parents, as well as our homeless, but we were able to also take care of those in our community who are suffering from cancer. We must do better, and as we saw today, we can only do so together," the speaker said.
Another bill awaiting vote is Sen. Mary Torres' Bill 415-35, which would appropriate $50,000 to the Department of Administration to fund a nurse wage study.
The proposed funding appropriation would come from the unexpended funds of Torres' office.
The government of Guam’s Nurse Pay Plan currently has 38 positions, covering licensed practical nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, community health and nursing services, hospital administrators and supervisors, and school health counselors.
While Public Law 35-36 had authorized the expenditure of funds for a government-wide study, which included nursing positions, no appropriation was actually made to carry out this provision.
“This funding is a good step toward helping us to tackle a task, which as Senator Torres says, needs to be done,” said Edward Birn, director of the Department of Administration. “As a veteran of GMH, I’m very well aware of the conditions, in particular, the pay conditions of our nurses and the need to recruit and, as importantly, to retain nurses. I look forward to being able to carry out this mandate.”
The bill further authorizes an additional transfer of $50,000 from the general fund—a “very small amount," Birn noted DOA “can find”—allowing for a total of $100,000 to conduct a study exclusively on nursing positions.
“Bill 415 is part of a multi-pronged response to Guam’s nursing shortage,” Torres said, referring to her highly requested companion measure, Bill 239, which seeks to add Guam to the Nurse Licensure Compact. ”It’s clear to all of us that our nurses deserve better; by committing my office savings, this bill holds us to a long-overdue study to pay our nurses what they’re worth.”