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State of emergency sought for Guam hospital, governor asked to tap National Guard chief to handle crisis

Updated: May 2

 By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes and Minority Leader Frank Blas Jr. on Wednesday urged Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to declare a state of emergency for Guam Memorial Hospital and appoint Dr. Michael Cruz, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, to manage the emergency.


"Such a declaration would streamline coordination efforts, expedite resource allocation, and provide the necessary support to address the pressing needs of our public hospital," Muna Barnes and Blas said in a letter to the governor.

The call for a declaration of a state of emergency came on the heels of flooding on the hospital's first floor caused by a broken water pipe.

"The break has since been contained and clean-up is in progress. As a result, visitation has been temporarily restricted to a case-by-case basis," the hospital administration said in a press statement.

"Currently, Elevator 3 is in operation. It will be a few more hours before Elevators 1 and 2 are operational. Elevator 4 was already down for scheduled maintenance," GMH said.

Hospital administrators said facilities maintenance and safety personnel are still assessing the situation "and additional information will be forthcoming."


Legislative leaders said there was no need for another oversight hearing, federal inspections or viral video "to tell us the obvious; action is needed now."

"In our opinion, the most critical part of this requested emergency declaration

 is the utilization of a proven leader and commander in Gen. Cruz, who has an exemplary track record of crisis management, both in times of conflict and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic," Muna Barned and Blas said.

"This appointment will undoubtedly address any perceived or real lack of trust the public may have on the current leadership of GMH, and, more importantly, comes with the invaluable expertise from a battle-tested medical officer who will successfully coordinate an effective response to the challenges at hand," they added.


In a separate statement, Speaker Therese Terlaje said the persistent issues plaguing GMH extend beyond financial concerns, encompassing broader management challenges that require comprehensive solutions.

"The legislature has previously dedicated other funds for GMH CIP, yet these resources have not been implemented by the administration," Terlaje said.

"The slow progress on CIP along with the overall financial and operational health of the hospital have been longstanding issues, prompting numerous legislative initiatives, hearings and sessions." she added.

At an oversight hearing in January, GMH reported it had utilized the $30 million allocated by the legislature under P.L. 37-43. Yet, GMH is anticipating a projected shortfall of another $30 million.

GMH had also reported that the $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding designated by the governor for capital improvement projects remains unspent, with these projects still in the planning stages.

Several months ago, Terlaje urged the governor to urgently address the management challenges at GMH. In response, the governor issued an executive order, establishing a Fiscal Review Committee to provide financial assistance to GMH.

"The health committee has repeatedly highlighted the multitude of issues facing the hospital, specifically the management issues that have resulted in complaints from patients, nurses and other hospital staff," the speaker said.

She Terlaje has also requested that the Office of Finance and Budget expedite the hospital’s budget hearing to clarify the financial outlook for the upcoming fiscal year.  

GMH requires a clear understanding of the budget it can expect for the next fiscal year to effectively plan and implement necessary strategies to avert financial disaster. These discussions are crucial to making informed decisions about GMH’s operations and addressing its fiscal responsibilities.


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