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Buildup's healthcare impacts discussed

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - Serious concerns were raised at this morning's roundtable meeting as government and healthcare leaders met to discuss how the military buildup will impact healthcare in the coming years.  This morning representatives from the island's major health departments met with the 30th Guam Legislature's Health Committee to discuss their concerns on how the military buildup will impact care on Guam. 

Key staff from DISID, Mental Health, Public Health and the Guam Memorial Hospital spoke about the challenges that would come with the buildup, particularly that Guam is already struggling for resources based on the current demand for services.  GMH Administrator Peter John Camacho said, "We think about the buildup and some of that is already happening, we're faced with that every day now. And so we're looking at how we can adjust to meet those needs now and still looking ahead to 2014."

In order to serve a growing population, the island will need to attract more qualified healthcare professionals. But according to Public Health Chief Public Health Officer Marylou Loualhati, even the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is underestimating just how many will be needed and Guam is already faces challenges with recruiting.

"It has to do with compensation. We have a difficult time recruiting even though we're considered and classified as a health professional shortage area we still do not have the number of doctors that we need to have in our community health centers," she said.

Mental Health Clinical Administrator Dr. Andrea Leitheiser says that although the military has its own health services, the buildup will still be a strain on her agency because there may also be a large number of servicemen coming to Mental Health to avoid alerting their commanding officers.  Like her colleagues at other agencies, she felt that the DEIS just didn't have enough information.

She said, "My personal opinion no. we do need more utilization rates. We need to know for the incoming serviceman just what occurred. What were the diagnosis, what was the treatment, what was the outcome. We also need to know what they did in the community. We also need to know about the debriefing."

Today's roundtable emphasized a lot of the existing concerns associated with healthcare and the military buildup, but also stressed the importance of the need for more information.

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