Too many excuses, too many dead
Congratulations to the Guam Memorial Hospital leadership for not killing so many people in this Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the death of more than 300 of Guam’s finest citizens, even a few nurses and a couple of kids, GMH leaders still found time to stop and smell the roses.
On their way to the many funerals paid for by federal funds, the GMH honchos must have mused, “There will always be time to worry about patient safety and blooming colonies of black mold.” '
Fortunately, for these dishonestly cheerful hospital officials, the advantage of going to so many burial ceremonies this time of year is the opportunity to admire all the beautiful, fresh flower arrangements all over the island’s cemeteries.
As Japanese wedding planners search for hypo-allergenic floral bouquets for the aging tourists coming to pay for their daughter’s tropical wedding, GMH remains out of compliance with the Army Corps of Engineers’
recommendations for hazardous mold mitigation. In addition, the hospital’s electrical system is still a threat to life and safety and the bathrooms are too often kachinu.
In 2010, faithful, hard-working frontline GMH employees successfully attained prestigious Joint Commission hospital accreditation by continuously improving the sanitation, safety and competency of healthcare systems throughout GMH.
In 2018, dishonest and incompetent GMH management lost hospital accreditation by failing to ensure cleanliness and patient safety. That dishonorable administrative tradition of perpetuating unsafe patient care continues uninterrupted during the pandemic today.
Meanwhile, GMH leaders have distracted themselves with exorbitant marketing campaigns celebrating life’s small victories. Recently, they exalted their neonatal telemedicine service that would allow tiny little sick babies to undergo virtual umbilical cord catheterization. Unfortunately, the only person at GMH smart enough to truly appreciate that service was a neonatologist who quit more than a year ago. Just like the pathologist who quit last month while he was visiting the states. And then there’s the forensic morgue physician who quit even before he got started.
Despite not having enough doctors, not having enough nurses, not fixing the leaking roof, and not keeping the bathrooms clean, GMH remains optimistically overstaffed and underappreciated.
In 2021, GMH admitted that it had 1,124 employees to take care of 110 functional patient beds. Just to be clear, that means that GMH admitted that it paid 10 people a lot of money to take care of every one person who was lying sick in a hospital bed. With that kind of staffing, the potential for five-star or even 10-star customer service is definitely there.
Ever optimistic, GMH leaders labor languidly in the hope that they will find a national hospital accreditation agency that will honestly say that GMH is safe for patient care. Despite spending $18 million more on personnel and treating 10,000 fewer patients than two years ago, GMH leaders are still looking for someone to accredit them.
Life coaches often say that crisis doesn’t build character, rather, crisis reveals character. If that is so, keeping our public hospital unclean for Japanese tourists, unsafe for patients, and bloated with employees who can’t spell “customer service” says a lot about the characters who are in charge at GMH.
Meanwhile, with the blood of over a million Americans on her hands, Lady Walensky is shaking things up in D.C. The chief of the nation’s top public health agency admitted that the Centers for Disease Control was too slow, too ponderous and too focused on the collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats like Covid-19. Add inborn GovGuam inertia, four time zones, and a boatload of arrogance and you have Guam’s Department of Public Health in a nutshell.
Like the CDC, Guam Public Health and Human Services has been criticized for years for being too inefficient, insular and inept. Dr. Walensky said the nation’s public health agencies must refocus on local community needs, respond much faster to emergent outbreaks of disease, and provide information in a way that ordinary people and local health providers can understand and use.
Undaunted by federal epiphanies, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has not accepted failed GovGuam leadership as the reason why Guam has had the worst pandemic response in Asia and the highest death rate among all U.S. territories. Rather than acknowledging the legion of GovGuam officials who failed in their duties and then quit on their people, Lou seems to think the problem is real estate.
Banking $300 million in federal relief funds, the governor insists that when it comes to fixing Guam’s healthcare, there is no place like Mangilao.
According to Lou, the GMH facilities in Tamuning are too old and hopelessly outdated and not worth repairing because there are too many earthquakes there.
The facts speak differently. GMH started life as the Catholic-built 221-bed Medical Center of the Marianas and opened in Oka in January 1976. Two years later, GovGuam bought it for $25.5 million and rebranded it as Guam Memorial Hospital.
Therefore, GMH is younger than Guam’s first McDonald’s hamburger restaurant which was built in 1971. McDonald’s was first built in Tamuning constantly dealing with all the same structural and maintenance challenges that GMH is using as an excuse for its current deplorable conditions. Despite earthquakes and inconsiderate customers, McDonald’s also manages to keep its 51-year-old bathrooms cleaner and better smelling than the malodorous restrooms at GMH.
GMH is younger than President Joe Biden, who is 79 years old. GMH is younger than Nancy Pelosi, who is 82 years young. Madeline Bordallo is older than GMH and no one is talking about moving her to Mangilao.
Gov. Lou insists that it would be in the island’s best interest to look past the mold and patient safety violations at GMH and envision a new hospital with all the cool things that $300 million can buy. As envisioned, Lou’s hospital will be right next to the two-lane highway near the historic Chamorro archeological sites in Pagat and right next to the incoming nuclear missile defense military facilities that will likely look really cool at night.
The GMH vision statement is “to provide quality patient care in a safe environment.” Since Gov. Lou’s new hospital vision is likely to take more than five years to even break ground, perhaps GMH leaders should be honest and admit that marketing and brand imaging are to be their foremost concerns.
Since dealing successfully with the innumerable medical crisis facing GMH is dependent on fixing GMH, hospital leaders will just need to tell the people of Guam to be patient.
Conveniently, a gubernatorial election is being held this year. When it comes to healthcare for you and your family this election, don’t get mad. Get even.
Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.