Servant of the people
The urgent phone call came late on a Saturday afternoon. The Covid-19 virus had infected many senior citizens at St. Dominic’s Senior Care Home. Public Health officials feared the deadly disease would spread quickly among residents and staff. Guam’s only senior care facility for its most frail man’amko was on the brink of catastrophe.
From the beginning of the outbreak, senior care homes all over America have been scenes of Covid carnage. In the early days of the pandemic, the virus tore through New York nursing homes, killing more than 6,624 people. Across the country, military veteran’s institutional homes and even religious convents for retired nuns were among the most dangerous long-term care facilities.
Despite the threat of immediate danger, GovGuam’s public health officials failed to persuade any of their fellow political patronage civil servants to physically come and help St. Dominic’s. It was Saturday. It was after 4:30 p.m. They were tired.
Instead, private home nursing professionals had to be recruited to do the job that Public Health could not do alone. Despite being already overwhelmed by an epidemic of cardiopulmonary disease, resourceful community nurse leaders got up and worked nonstop that Saturday and Sunday in February to take control of the surge of infections. Because those good people were willing to become the “last responders” on the St. Dominic’s front lines, the fierce battle with the virus was won.
Imagine now the demoralizing frustration then fury that was ignited in the hearts of those weary private nurses when they were told by Public Health bureaucrats that they wouldn’t be paid for their services. In their confused disappointment, the nurses join the heroic TIER 2 clinics that GovGuam has outrageously refused to righteously pay for emergency services already consumed.
Indeed, while the dishonestly paid nonessential GovGuam workers gorged themselves on home-delivery pizza, the private nurses who helped save St. Dominic’s were contemptuously denied the dignity of a living wage.
Dutiful nurses and doctors worked with trembling and weary hands on behalf of Public Health. They were unpaid, while GovGuam prodigally bought new golf carts and blue glamping tents.
While Guam’s most dedicated private health professionals were denied full pay for services delivered during the pandemic emergency, GovGuam happily paid for empty hotel rooms and not-so-empty penthouse suites.
GovGuam’s misguided approach to punish private healthcare professionals who faithfully work to save lives while paying nonessential government workers to stay home has created the true legacy of Covid on Guam.
Inafamaolek is dead. Our island has become a house divided. On Guam in 2022, you are either “In” or out; essential or nonessential; GovGuam employee or s*** out of luck.
Healthcare workers have been vilified by infuriated patients who are aware of Guam’s broken and untrustworthy medical system. Schizophrenic government agents force the populace to accept unilateral public health dictums. Meanwhile, in opulent five-star quarantine prisons, individuals are stripped of their autonomy in the name of artificially intelligent Covid dogma.
Then, in an act of high melodrama, beleaguered GovGuam public health officials screechingly blame terrified citizens for letting the virus run out of control.
The virus has masterfully exposed the cumulative failures at the Guam Memorial Hospital and the Department of Public Health. GovGuam’s dishonorable tradition of payroll politics and political patronage has been revealed to be a paradigm of death. More victims than vectors, Covid deaths tragically ripped apart more than 300 island families.
While American patriots like Patrick Henry spun in their graves, thousands of lives were relentlessly degraded by the ungracious stripping of civil liberties.
One clear lesson from the pandemic over the past couple of years is that Guam cannot be strong without its hospitals and health systems being strong.
As our island contemplates the imminent arrival of 5,000 U.S. marines, an epidemic of violent crime, drug abuse, family violence and untreated psychiatric disease is raging in the villages of Guam.
Guam’s Organic Act and hospital mission statement requires the governor to maintain safe hospital facilities that provide quality patient care for our island’s people.
Today, amid $300 million in dormant federal relief funds, Guam’s hospital facilities and healthcare systems are broken. What Guam has right now is a hospital that has been stripped of national accreditation due to ongoing violations of patient safety. In addition, Guam has a failed inpatient psychiatric facility that, as of this moment, has no working psychiatrist.
Instead, Guam has millions of dollars of excuses at GMH and more than 50 expensive traveling nurses commanding more than $210 per hour. At the Mental Health facility, no psychiatrist may be in the house, yet Guam’s most broken adults and children are still being given highly toxic psychiatric medications under the prescriptive authority of valiantly unqualified non-psychiatric personnel.
This May, as we prepare to commemorate St. Dymphna Day and pay respect to those suffering nervous and mental afflictions, let us resolve to work competently to establish solidarity in our fractured community.
St. Dymphna is the patron saint of orphans, runaways, victims of rape and sexual abuse, victims of incest, and those suffering from psychiatric disease.
Inspired by St. Dymphna, let us not succumb to despair and self-centered monarchs, even if they are our relatives.
Instead of divisiveness and marginalization, let us strive to be more inclusive and forward-looking. With compassion, faith, and goodwill, let us aspire pragmatically to use the hundreds of millions of federal relief dollars to create healthcare solutions for today. Let’s quit talking at each other and begin working together as true servants of the people.
The current paradigm of death and division needs to be replaced by an integrated philosophy of humane care that emulates the tradition of healing passed down to us by the ancient CHamoru.
Very likely, an optimistically pragmatic approach to life was necessary to survive trans-oceanic journeys and the colonization of new lands. Our island ancestors were very likely realistic idealists shaped by ever-present threats to their material existence.
This election season, in the true spirit of Inafamaolek, the Taotaomona would probably advise GovGuam’s current public servants to get up, get going, or get out of the way. I advise those same servants of the people to respectfully not ignore those who came before us. To ignore such wise ancient advice would be like pissing in the wind.
Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org