Navy offers no-cost lease for hospital
By Frank Whitman
If Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signs the lease for Eagles Field that was drawn up by the Navy within 30 days of March 15, the government of Guam will pay nothing to lease the 100-plus acre lot on which it is to build a new world-class hospital and medical campus.
If she does not sign the 50-year lease, the U.S. Navy will keep the land and use it for some other military purpose, according to Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas, in a letter dated March 15 that accompanied the lease when it was sent to Leon Guerrero.
The construction of the hospital has been a signature project of Leon Guerrero since she assumed office in 2018.
The inadequacy of the poorly maintained public civilian hospital, Guam Memorial Hospital, is not disputed. The expense and location of the Eagles Field hospital replacement project is the subject of some controversy.
Nicholson met with Pacific Island Times and other Guam media outlets March 16 to explain the lease, the process that led to it, and the ways it is likely to benefit Guam, the Navy and the region. The lease had generated contention when some felt its formulation was not transparent enough.
According to Nicholson, Leon Guerrero requested land for a new hospital at about the same time the Navy was facing the inadequacy of its own 42-bed hospital and other health services in Guam.
“We looked at the governor’s request for an area to put a new hospital, and we looked at the growing military population here,” Nicholson said.
“We looked at the lack of specialty care within the DoD system here. We looked at the lack of subspecialty care within the civilian system here. We looked at the inability of the lab system here to process many lab requests here. We got together and said, ‘What’s the best way to do this?’”
He also noted that every year, 4,000 military members or their family members are referred from DoD medical facilities to local civilian medical facilities for care not available at the naval hospital or other military clinics. Such care is paid for by Tricare to the providers.
Officials decided the problems could be addressed by leasing the land for the hospital to GovGuam with requirements for certain specialty items, which they did.
Items to be required under the lease are:
• A hyperbaric recompression chamber for the treatment of diving-related injuries and other patients requiring hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
• Inpatient rehabilitation capability with services to include inpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
• Inpatient hemodialysis capability.
• Pediatric intensive care unit.
• Interventional radiology facility for cardiac catheterization.
• The ability to receive casualties in a mass casualty scenario. Either permanently set up for that or reconfigurable.
• A heat-resistant landing pad able to accommodate tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.
“We put these things into the lease and said, ‘OK, GovGuam, we agree to lease you this plot of land if you put these things into the hospital design,’” he said. “If you do that, the cost of the lease is zero. You don’t have to pay us because you have provided in-kind services.”
Key to the military’s plans for Guam is the coming installation of a missile defense system in Guam to counteract the perceived threat to the island from Chinese or North Korean missiles. The system requires multiple sites around Guam including one to also be sited on the Eagles Field lot.
The missile defense land requirements have prompted a halt to the return of land that had been considered excess including a Guam Power Authority solar panel array that was to be installed at South Finegayan.
“With the exception of any parcels of land that are already in the transfer process that has started the formal transfer, there’s no more excess land,” Nicholson said.