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People voice support for oncologist Friedman

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - There's been significant criticism of the Guam Memorial Hospital in recent months and that continued today during the confirmation hearing for Dr. Sam Friedman to sit on the Guam Board of Medical Examiners. The oncologist, who has been very vocal about the standard of care being provided to patients locally, didn't hold back on how he believes his role on the board can bring about positive change for healthcare in the territory.

Describing the Guam Memorial Hospital as "a basket case", Dr. Friedman appeared before the Legislature's Health Committee this morning hoping to garner support for his nomination to sit on the GBME. Former board chairman Dr. Jerone Landstrom testified in favor of his colleague's nomination, saying the inaction and actions of the former board failed to protect the public and maintain the standard of care on the island.

"It is not fair that some physicians should be suspended or revoked or have undue attention brought to them while the same thing or similar issues are completely swept under the rug because of someone else's connections politically," Landstrom professed.

Dr. Friedman made it clear he wants the job and believes he can bring balance to the board to improve medical care for patients and start holding physicians more accountable.

"There was a young woman who died in labor about two months ago. A totally preventable case; something that a junior medical student wouldn't do. This never came up to scrutiny at all. So it's not only the people coming in, it's the people that are here as well. I think the quality of medical care has to be brought up to a standard that the rest of the western world has," he stated.

He also believes that every physician on Guam should have to accept MIP and Medicaid patients, as many currently do not. "We have probably 40% Medicaid and MIP population and I think it's just terrible to try to get a doctor to see a patient and he won't be seen because he or she doesn't have an insurance that pays enough," he added.

Friedman also believes medical, nursing and pharmacy care at GMH are not up to standards.  He believes healthcare professionals should be required to undergo regular education and training specific to their field. He made it clear he is not against the joint commission that recently accredited the hospital after being paid $6.5 million in the past two and a half years.

"The question I have and the point I have," he continued, "is JCO is costing a tremendous amount of money, number one. Number two that money is being taken away from patients care in the way of drugs, equipment and services. Number there, there's a much better way to spend the money that the previous hospital was wasting and still meeting JCO."

Although no one appeared at the hearing to testify in opposition of Dr. Friedman's nomination, lawmakers received a petition from GMH nursing supervisor Cely Mangrobang with signatures from nurses discouraging his confirmation based on allegations that he made derogatory and borderline racist comments to nurses.  Dr. Friedman denied ever making those remarks and others who work with him like Christine Lewis and others who are treated by him, urged lawmakers to look beyond the politics.

"Dr. Friedman has never turned a patient away including those who cannot pay. As he says patients come first, we'll worry about others later," Lewis said. "I'm very much alive because Dr. Friedman is the kind of doctor - and you know I won't tell you a lie - one doctor that I've found that will tell you as it is, just like I do," added Gloria Nelson in support of the physician.

While there had been concerns that there are currently no vacancies on the board of medical examiners, all seven of the current members' terms have expired.

GMH officials are looking into Friedman's claims that a woman in labor died as a result of medical malpractice.

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