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GMH criticized for tissue testing

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - Some doctors believe the Guam Memorial Hospital may be forgoing critical tests to cut costs.  It may save money, but is it worth it?

It never hurts to get a second opinion - in fact, sometimes it could save a life. That's why there's growing frustration among some local doctors over how the island's only public hospital is handling requests for tissue samples to be sent out for additional lab tests.

Dr. Sam Friedman is an oncologist at the Cancer Center of Guam.  He says that certain cancer tissue can look identical under a microscope and that, unless the proper tests are run, diagnosing the type of cancer is just guesswork.

"Obviously, there are more than just myself that's concerned about this, because this is the whole foundation of medical care. If you don't know what you're treating, you can't treat properly," he stated.

Not confirming the diagnosis could force a patient through unnecessary chemotherapy that may even harm them and send medical costs through the roof if the patient is forced to go off-island because they weren't treated the right way the first time.  But GMH Spokesperson Connor Murphy says the hospital is still sending out tissue samples - the review process is just a little different.

He told KUAM News, "I think what has happened is in the past there was only one doctor in the lab, and so he would be able to send samples out when he determined it was necessary. Now we have a laboratory medical director above him so that laboratory medical director naturally reviews each case before it's sent out."

According to Murphy, the extra review is to ensure that the hospital is best utilizing its in-house resources, before they shell out the money to get samples evaluated in Hawaii. But Dr. Friedman's not convinced this is where the hospital should be cutting corners.

"Does this make sense to not do a $300, $400, $500 test when you're talking about somebody's life and somebody's potential treatment?" he asked.

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