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Health pros gather to request information

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Comments made during last Friday's confirmation hearing for oncologist Dr. Sam Friedman are still burning in the ears of many in the local medical community, who gathered last night to discuss the repercussions of his statements that "the Guam Memorial Hospital is killing patients."

Many were outraged and took personal offense to Friedman's testimony and are now asking the very board the physician has been nominated to investigate the matter.

A group of healthcare professionals are making a concerted effort to have the governor reconsider his nomination of Dr. Friedman to the Guam Board of Medical Examiners.  During a meeting last night, a group of doctors and nurses agreed to ask the board to investigate his comments.

Dr. Lee Meadows announced during last night's meeting, "Request the Medical Licensure Board to investigate Dr. Friedman for unprofessional, unethical behavior that has disrupted medical care on Guam; has caused unnecessary fear among our patients." And with a show of hands, members of the island's healthcare community agreed to endorse a written complaint to the Guam Board of Medical Examiners against the governor's nominee to that very organization.

Current GBME co-chairman Dr. Patrick Santos said, "The GBME will investigate to see if the allegations are true or not. The whole idea is not to take away his license, okay? It might be a reprimand, a letter of warning."

But FHP oncologist Dr. Arnold Wax believes Friedman did much more than acted unprofessionally or unethically, saying, "He violated a federal law. He took an undiscoverable issue, which is a hospital record and made it public record. That is a violation of the 1986 COBRA law, which is a peer review law and which is a discovery law."

On Friday, Dr. Friedman told lawmakers that patients were dying needlessly at the Guam Memorial Hospital and there was a lack of adequate review of these cases. He specifically mentioned the death of a 41-year-old pregnant woman. Friedman said her death could have been prevented had she been properly diagnosed during her pregnancy.

But hospital OB/GYN Dr. Jeffrey Gable claimed Friedman doesn't have the facts. "I don't think going after that behavior is a witch hunt," he stated. "I think this is anything that we wouldn't do to anybody that recklessly goes around violating the laws and the ethical rules of normal practice to medicine. I think this is despicable."

Another OB/GYN physician asserted, "When there is a case we send this case off-island for an independent review. When there is something that goes awry, we take corrective action - that is a fact. You can quote me. And lastly, I want to say that GMH is a very safe place to have your child."

Friedman has said that if given the clearance from the hospital he would provide specific details to prove his claims. He feels those who are most threatened by the change he hopes to see in Guam's medical community are the very ones who are crying the loudest.

Today he told KUAM News in a statement, "It is obvious by some physicians comments that some of the medical community believe the GBME is there to stifle opposing views and free speech. While the outgoing GBME may have seen itself in this role, hopefully Gov. Calvo has broken that mold and will put in a GBME whose primary responsibility is to the patients of Guam and the assurance of competent medical care."

And while the decision on the governor's nominee ultimately rests with members of the Guam Legislature, it's clear the medical community isn't happy about having their so-called dirty laundry aired out in the public. Dr. Chris Dombrowski said, "There's an internal way to deal with these things, but not through the media."

Dr. John Garrido urged his colleagues to collectively work to undue the damage he says has already been done, noting, "GMH is not a place where we kill people. This is a place where we heal people. We need to improve our image."

Guam Medical Association president Dr. Thomas Shieh told those present at last night's meeting that there will be another follow-up meeting as he says they will not let this issue go.

Governor Eddie Calvo meanwhile says he plans to review the tapes of Dr. Friedman's confirmation hearing and talk with him to understand his point of view. "One thing I do believe when I appointed him is I know the fellow," said the chief executive. "He's a great doctor to our cancer patient community here on Guam, he's a man from the very beginning that wanted to get involved to improve the quality of healthcare. That being said, I also stand behind GMH - there's hundreds of hardworking doctors, nurses and other member so that staff that are doing their best to try and improve the quality of healthcare on this island."

Meanwhile KUAM News has learned several doctors and nurses plan to head to Adelup on Wednesday afternoon in hopes of meeting with the governor regarding their concerns about Dr. Friedman.

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