Once upon a time, the governor of Guam divided government employees into “the essential” and “the nonessentials.”
As darkness descended upon the land, more than 4,000 GovGuam workers were told to stay home, wash their hands, and shelter in place. Their government jobs were determined to be unnecessary for health, public safety, or education purposes.
Many nonessentials happily stayed home and watched a lot of Netflix. Too many were all too satisfied to continue to get paid not to go to work. I never heard a single nonessential ever complain about their designation nor their reward.
While nonessential GovGuam employees dubiously earned their pay and reputation, the grass grew tall and wild in the abandoned schoolyards all around the island.
The children’s playgrounds became rotten and encircled by rusty metal chain-link fences that had curled into lethal, ugly ornaments of despair. Simultaneously, the roof continued to leak at Guam Memorial Hospital and Oceanview Middle School descended into dangerous disrepair.
While noble essential GovGuam workers risked their lives and endangered their families to fight the Covid-19 virus, the greater community of non-government workers were locked down by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s chaotic public health management.
In the early days of the pandemic, Guam Public Health medical leadership wilted under the pressure of working more than five days a week. No one really knew who Public Health’s medical director was when Guam finally found the virus in our midst.
Then one after another, poorly prepared Public Health physicians began spewing vitriol toward the people of Guam for being “out of control” and we all began to wish that Public Health would go back to being anonymous.
As Covid-19 devasted Guam, Public Health physician leadership reaped the harvest of isolation, mistrust, and pretentiousness that they had sown in the years prior to the pandemic. Tabletop pre-pandemic exercises turned out to be a sham. Under Gov. Leon Guerrero, GovGuam had established little integration with the more robust private sector medical community.
When the pandemic started, the Central Public Health clinic in Mangilao had been declared unsafe for humans and was emergently evacuated by the Fire Department. Thus, the Covid lab and other virus-fighting medical personnel were homeless for a while.
They couldn’t go to the Southern Public Health clinic because apparently the air conditioner was broken. The same air conditioning problem existed at the Skilled Nursing Unit in Barrigada Heights. So Public Health couldn’t use that space either. Northern Public Health was also not available so Public Health finally found a rental space in Tamuning across from the old Taco Bell.
Somewhere along the way, the Covid experts at Public Health forgot to plug in their fax machines or forward their office phone numbers which eventually made a lot of people very sad.
Because of the failures at Guam Public Health, the governor clumsily took control of the island’s largest private clinics and effectively ran them into the ground. The governor forced FHP, SDA and AMC clinics to become Public Health TIER2 clinics that saw all Covid and other sick patients who could be triaged away from the already beleaguered hospital emergency rooms around the island. Her dictatorial actions caused great economic damage to these private clinics and that impact will never be forgotten.
Even in the face of Covid’s devastation, the governor vociferously advocated for continued GovGuam’s taxes on food and medicine. While President Donald Trump found federal funds to help Guam’s business community, Governor Lou insisted on forcing the sick and the hungry to feed the greedy GovGuam treasury.
Instead of using the ill-named business privilege tax to fix the Guam Memorial Hospital as it had been intended, Governor Lou redirected those tax dollars to give nonessential workers money to buy home delivery pizza. Even before GovGuam’s pizza could get cold, President Trump signed the CARES act that infused $2.2 trillion into the U.S. economy. Through the CARES Act, the federal government directly supported Guam businesses impacted by the pandemic and employees affected by Covid-19. Key impact areas included business loans and unemployment benefits.
While Donald Trump was helping Guam, Governor Lou decided to help herself. Pocketing more than $300 million in federal aid money in her family bank, the governor declared GMH, Guam’s Covid hospital, to be a hopeless cause, too dilapidated to rescue, too dirty and broken to deserve her further concern.
This, of course, was disturbing news for those patients sick and dying in GMH especially laboring mothers and their newborn babies.
The GMH vision statement to provide “quality patient care in a safe environment” became a poorly constructed hypocrisy.
The governor admitted that the Army Corps of Engineers April 2020 hospital report revealed a dangerously broken facility that was a clear and present danger to patients and hospital staff.
Then, with the sense of urgency of a millennial barista, Governor Lou decided to build a billion-dollar hospital in Mangilao.
A new hospital to be built where no hospital has ever been built before. Boldly going where our CHamoru ancestors probably did go before, archeologists are very likely to find really cool ancient ancestor stuff. What the archeologist won’t find is very much infrastructure or roads or streetlights. But that’s okay because the new Mangilao hospital is apparently going to have very rich neighbors.
The military plans to spare no expense to build a snazzy, state-of-the-art nuclear missile defense system right next to the governor’s hospital. We can probably expect the military to build all the infrastructure and all the roads. I’m sure the governor will try to milk them for a lot of streetlights for the little children. I wonder if the governor can get Starbuck’s Café there to serve the Milky Café Latte. Yum, yum.
Fake it ‘til you make it seems to be Gov. Leon Guerrero’s motto in regards to healthcare. Fake hospital solutions. Fake Public Health pandemic preparations. Fake psychiatric care with non-psychiatrists pretending to know what they are doing at GovGuam’s acute mental health inpatient facility.
What is not fake is the pain and suffering going on in the villages of Guam. What is not fake are the more than 300 dead Guamanians who can’t vote this November because Covid-19 killed them. What is not fake are those 4,000 nonessential GovGuam employees now campaigning for their political lives and the re-election of Lou Leon Guerrero.
You do have a say. You do matter. Your vote counts. We hear you.
Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to email@example.com